The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association sent the following letter to all Pennsylvania state senators and their chiefs of staff on June 21, 2018.
Subject: Support HB 2468. Stop irresponsible eminent domain.
On behalf of the 75 member organizations of the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association and the 120,000 Pennsylvanians they count as members, I write to request that you:
(1) ask Senate leaders to have the vote on HB 2468 today or tomorrow,
(2) vote for HB 2468, and
(3) oppose all amendments.
HB 2468 defends conservation easements from irresponsible eminent domain, ensuring that the would-be condemner will look for reasonable and prudent alternatives to the condemnation before proceeding.
Respect Civic-Minded and Generous Donors
Families who donate conservation easements for the public good should not see their civic-mindedness and incredible generosity punished by school districts (or other government bodies) thoughtlessly condemning these easements and the land they conserve. HB 2468 provides respect for these landowners and the benefits they thoughtfully establish for the public.
Uphold a Conservative Tool for Conservation
Conservation easements are a non-regulatory, property-rights-based tool. They are used to conserve special places for the public’s benefit without resort to regulation and without requiring public ownership. They keep land in private ownership. Poorly considered eminent domain threatens this conservative approach to protecting the places people care about. HB 2468 protects this crucial tool for conservation.
A Fair and Balanced Approach
The legislation is fair and balanced. The bill only requires a search for reasonable and prudent alternatives to taking a conservation easement. In requiring orphan’s court review, HB 2468 establishes a review process for conservation easement condemnations analogous to that provided by the Agricultural Lands Condemnation Approval Board (ALCAB) for lands in agricultural security areas.
Respecting Our Constitution
Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states that:
The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.
A conservation easement accomplishes such preservation pursuant to public policy, and the legislation ensures that the government does not act heedless of the people’s right to it. Since environmental rights don’t exist in a vacuum, the legislation doesn’t block eminent domain; it only requires that before exercising eminent domain on a conservation easement, the condemner look for reasonable and prudent alternatives.
It’s only reasonable that governments should look for reasonable and prudent alternatives before jumping to take conserved lands, upending the expectations of community members that their beloved special places are there for the long run.
Thank you for your consideration.
Andrew M. Loza
Pennsylvania Land Trust Association