September 29, 2020
Pennsylvania House of Representatives [transmitted via email]
Re. HB 2724—Prescriptive Easements—Public Property Rights
Dear Pennsylvania Representative:
I write on behalf of the 70 member organizations of WeConservePA (formerly the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association) and the more than one hundred thousand Pennsylvanians they count as members and supporters.
WeConservePA opposes HB 2724.
The work of land trusts is grounded in property rights and providing conservation benefits to the public. We conserve land by purchasing or accepting donations of property rights, working within a well-established framework of common and statutory law.
HB 2724 appears to upend this law, providing favor to one class of property owners at the expense of another class of property owners—namely, the public. WeConservePA supports private property rights and likewise the property rights of the public. And just as we object to undue impingement on private property rights for public interests, we object to the usurping of public rights by private interests.
By prohibiting private groups from stepping up to defend potential property interests of the public in court, HB 2724 puts those public rights at risk given the often limited capacity of and potential political constraints on public agencies to address such matters.
WeConservePA recognizes an argument that if the bill does not pass, there is a risk that landowners will cease to permit trails to pass through their properties; we also recognize the counter-argument that landowners can quite easily prevent prescriptive easement claims by granting simple, revocable licenses. WeConservePA welcomes discussion of these conflicting views and other issues raised in this bill.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Andrew M. Loza