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Letter: Land Trusts Won’t Act Against Their Interests

To the Editor:

I’m on the Vermont Land Trust board of trustees and the Upper Valley Land Trust board of advisors and have been dismayed by the recent discussion about amendments to conservation easements. The focus has been on how terrible it would be to change the terms of an easement sometime in the future. VLT holds a conservation easement on our land, and we didn’t convey the development rights on to them because we think it’s a particularly special place, we did it because we want our 100 or so acres to continue to play a positive role in keeping Vermont free from careless development. We think of our acres as playing a small part in a larger landscape that will provide fuel, building materials and food for people, and good living situations for all the other creatures that live among us.

The land trusts that I know of in this area are dedicated to that very same mission, and the suspicion and mistrust that the legislation now being considered has aroused seems to me quite unfounded. The damage to the reputation of any land trust that would mindlessly amend or terminate an easement would be lethal — there’s no way that’s going to happen.

Maybe I’m extreme in this regard, but personally, if it became necessary to do something off-label to our land in order to protect a significantly more valuable ecological treasure, I’d say go for it. For better or worse, the likelihood of that happening is minimal and the provisions in the bill under consideration make it even less likely. Even if those who work at land trusts were to markedly change for the worse in the future, as some have suggested, it’s hard to imagine that they’d be replaced with people single-mindedly out to shoot themselves in the foot.

Virginia Barlow