Conservation easements are the best way to protect private land. They provide landowners a legal, iron-clad way to ensure habitat will forever reflect an owner’s idea for preserving the strengths and character of their property. There are significant tax benefits. Protection in perpetuity is assured because the entity – in our case, the New Mexico Land Conservancy – you transfer the easement to monitors your land yearly and ensures your requirements are honored. The entity you choose to make sure your wishes are honored has a non-optional, legal duty to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of the easement that controls activity on the property during your lifetime and all future owners.
Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC)
ACEC designation is available to a tenant or other entity of federal land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). An ACEC designation is less costly than a conservation easement, but more difficult to procure as the granting entity is the BLM, and they are a bureaucratic agency obligated to support the “multiple use” doctrine enshrined in federal law that must accommodate mining, cattle ranching, camping and other authorized uses. Worse yet, for several decades, Congress has been riding the austerity/deficit horse, a myth that has led to cutting federal agency budgets to the point they can no longer effectively function, no longer protect public lands or the public generally.
This legal mechanism to restrict uses and activities is well established and works for smaller parcels of deeded, private land. This is an inexpensive tool but has no immediate financial benefits. Protection of the land in the future is far less secure than with a conservation easement, because there is no land trust to monitor and enforce the requirements of the deed restriction. Rather, enforcement is available only to those who are beneficiaries of the restriction, and enforcement is optional and must be pursued privately. Legal expense is the responsibility of the person asking a court to enforce the deed restriction, making enforcement far less likely.
The Pitchfork Ranch, Area Map
State Land Protection
We know of no means for protecting state land but are working on it. Conservation easements provide significant income or tax benefits in order to provide land owners with incentives to protect property from development that fractures habitat. ACEC designations are granted based on the need to protect important riparian corridors, threatened and endangered species, habitats, cultural and archaeological resources and unique scenic landscapes. The Pitchfork Ranch map linked below shows ownership categories and, when so much ranch land is “checkerboard,” how difficult it is to completely protect range land.
Protection Information and Resources