Saturday, March 04, 2017

Montana Land Reliance keeps 1 million acres from subdivision

Rick Berg’s Norwegian great-grandfather settled in the Lennep Valley in the late 1880s. He became a butcher, supplying the area's miners and railroad workers, then later homesteaded and ranched sheep. In the 1950s, the ranch he founded converted to cattle. Today, Rick’s daughter and her husband are the fifth generation to operate the place. They run their Angus cattle on 10,000 acres of private and state land, much as Rick and his wife, Gayle, did in the 1980s and 90s. The only real difference between now and a century ago is the property holds a conservation easement that ensures it will remain intact and undeveloped in perpetuity. “To think what my great-grandfather, grandfather, father and I did to create this beautiful block of land, I wanted to preserve the integrity of the land everybody worked so hard to put together,” Berg said. “Nothing inspires me more than to see large, beautiful, uncluttered spaces.” Berg’s conservation easement is through the Montana Land Reliance (MLR), a private, non-profit land trust. He is one of more than 800 landowners – many of them working farmers and ranchers – who have partnered with the organization to permanently protect agricultural land, fish and wildlife habitat and open space since it began nearly four decades ago. Land trusts like MLR protect land through conservation easements, voluntary legal agreements with landowners that put limits on how the land can be used in order to conserve it. Landowners retain their property titles, which forever keep the conservation easement, even after the property is sold. The donation of an easement qualifies as a charitable contribution, so in exchange most landowners receive significant income, estate and gift tax reductions...more

I'm fully supportive of the Berg's doing what they wish with their private property. That is their right as a property owner. I do not believe, however, that others should be forced to subsidize their decision.

Let's say that I make a different decision for my property; that I'm not presumptuous enough to believe I know today what is best for my family/heirs 50 or 100 years from now, and trust they will manage the property in a manner that is most beneficial to them, and I chose to not limit or restrict their options. In that case, the government punishes me with income, estate and other taxes. If I had made the same decisions as the Bergs, my decision would be subsidized, or free from the aforementioned taxes.

I don't believe the government should subsidize one person's decision and punish another person's opposite decision on the future of their property. Leave us free to make our own property decisions without government interference.


Anonymous said...

The government does not just punish property owners for not choosing to eliminate all economically productive uses of their properties. The government punishes the rest of us every time someone like the Bergs makes a decision to preserve land, because the the rest of us must pay higher taxes to make up for people like the Bergs being excused from paying their share, not only of the property tax, but we also lose the income taxes that otherwise would have been derived from economic use of private land. Everyone else pays for that gift to one taxpayer.

Frank DuBois said...

I agree, which why I said, "others should be forced to subsidize their decision."