Rainy Day Typing and Land Group Growth
In full disclosure, I am not typing at my normal hour. For some reason thoughts early in the morning always seem more clear, yet here I sit on a rainy Sunday. Nearly twelve months ago we were drowning as our ag land was flooded and field ditches ran full. As you will recall it rained once every three days in 2018. It rained enough for Maryland to classify as a temperate rain forest. You can check my facts on that one, 2018 was a wet year. Fast forward 12 months and we have been asking for some well-timed rain now that much of the corn is cut and percent moisture of the remaining crop in the field is decreasing. While Mother Nature has delivered a solid year for agriculture our land market seems to be responding in that land sales have also been closing at a decent clip as well. The Land Group has recently closed on over 2,500 acres of land in Maryland and Delaware. These land trades have taken on a variety of shapes and sizes, but the last three months have been a period of significant activity for our team.
Our myopic focus on land is perhaps our greatest strength, as we work to do only the business we know, understand and can bring value to. “We Sell Dirt” is more than just a fun elevator speech, it is our business plan. In keeping with our business planning, there are a lot of exciting changes at The Land Group I have failed to share but will be doing so in the coming blog posts.
I will take the next couple weeks to introduce our new Advisors working throughout the Chesapeake Bay Region. The first Advisor I am pleased to introduce is John Campagna, he and I have worked together for over decade and The Land Group is fortunate to have his talents working in Maryland and Pennsylvania on land brokerage and consulting. John has a great deal of experience as a land guy in the conservation and natural resource restoration space, as well as finance. John’s bio is on our website at https://thelandgroup.us/staff-members/john-campagna/.
John drafted a thoughtful blog post about the implications, the unintended consequences of perpetual conservation easements if adaptable measures are not put in place. Thank you to John for this piece and please send all your counter arguments to him directly without copying me. Just kidding! But we do recognize the somewhat controversial concept his proposal offers, and we welcome your constructive thoughts. We are just dirt guys and gals in the end so don’t be too hard on us.
Eliminating “In Perpetuity” Conservation Easements
With all the news regarding climate change, changing weather patterns, etc. one thing is clear: we as a society will have to adapt to navigate and thrive in the new world. The premise of this “little thought” is that conservation easements in perpetuity actually may backfire on us in the long run. The reason is because how will we know what natural system, restoration, adaptation will be needed on a parcel in 50 to 100 years in order to make the property, ecosystem and nature beneficial for us.
One quick clarifying point is this idea does not apply to termination of building rights or preserving areas for specific agricultural use. That is more related to land planning. My focus is how do we use the land to help us have better natural outcome protecting our land, water and air now and into the future.
First, how do we know that our practices and location chosen for the practices will be the best forever. It seems arrogant to decide that this tributary or forest tract will be the best place for certain practices now, 100 years from now, and forever. With all the new knowledge that is developed all the time, and changes in landscape (rivers meander, shorelines change, species migrate, etc.), wouldn’t it be best to allow our easements to adapt and change as the needs, benefits and solutions change? Parcel A may be best place for a living shoreline project today, but in 50 years the natural shoreline might have changed so dramatically that Parcel A is now not a beneficial place for the practice and Parcel B is now the best location. Shouldn’t we have the flexibility in our easements to move, adapt and even extinguish easements that are no longer effective?
This brings up the second point of who would be the best to decide the most effective practices and locations of practices to provide the land, water and air benefit we need as a society? It is the future generations. Why should we make decisions for them now with our incomplete knowledge and no way to gauge what the future will truly hold?
This argument is not without precedent. When this country was founded, there emerged an fundamental argument over how to fund this country. Hamilton wanted to continue the method developed in Europe over the middle ages and into the 18th century. Investors “bought into” a government by investing money in the regime in exchange for titles, and perpetual share of tax revenue. The investors were like an equity investor in the government. Jefferson countered Hamilton by stating that this method of funding actual reinforce aristocracy and undemocratic principal of piling on debt for future generation. Jefferson proposed a limited duration funding (bonds) that are repaid by the current generation leaving future generations free to raise money for what they see as needed at their time in the future. Jefferson won the argument and that is why our longest debt is a 30 year federal bond.
Should we not think of our work in conservation in the same way? Let us put practices to work on the appropriate location now, and let each generation decide how best to adapt, and change our work in their time to continue to support our goal of protecting the land, water and air. That is why we should consider using a generational limit for conservation easements.
— John Campagna