I am writing in regard to your March 13-19 article that discussed litigation involving conservation easement projects. A conservation easement (voluntary conservation agreement) is an important private land conservation tool to protect private property. A qualified appraiser’s conservation easement appraisal plays an important part in the donor’s due diligence process to determine the charitable deduction. Conservation easements have permanently conserved over one million acres in North America.
[Claud] Clark is a qualified appraiser who has appraised hundreds of charitable conservation easements. He has served as an educational instructor for educational workshops that involved the topic of conservation easement appraiser due diligence. The Federal Tax Court ruled in favor of Mr. Clark’s appraisal on the Kiva Dunes Project. The Court supported the appraisers’ valuation by 94 percent.
It is my understanding that the Kiva Dunes project mentioned in your article contained important Alabama Beach Mouse (Peromyscus polionotus ammobates) habitat. The protection of a relatively natural habitat of fish, wildlife or plants, or similar ecosystem, is an important part of complying with the conservation easement charitable deduction requirements. A conservation easement can be an important means to protect properties with historic, cultural and ecological significance.
The state of Alabama contains one the most biodiverse habitats in North America. There are rare plants and animal species only found in certain ecoregions of the state. The placement of a perpetual voluntary conservation agreement is an important mechanism to ensure the long-term protection of rare plants, animals and cultural or historic values that are present on the protected properties.
I hope your readers will understand how the placement of a conservation easement on a property by a private landowner will add permanent protection to the conserved land’s conservation values. A conservation easement appraiser plays an important role in this process.
Walter C. Ernest IV,
Director of Operation, Pelican Coast Conservancy, Mobile
Editor’s note: An update to this story, summarizing Clark’s legal answer to the federal complaint against him, appeared in last week’s issue and is available at www.lagniappemobile.com.
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