Archive for Saturday, April 5, 2014

Kansas bill limiting duration of conservation easements defeated in Senate

April 5, 2014

— A bill that would have limited the duration of conservation easements, which have been used to preserve tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills and prevent encroachment on military bases, was defeated in the Senate on Friday.

The measure failed 16-23. All eight Democrats and 15 Republicans voted against the measure.

Some conservatives sought the legislation, saying the easements limit economic development and can negatively affect neighboring property owners.

But other landowners and the U.S. military opposed the bill.

Under a conservation easement, owners donate land with restrictions in place that prohibit development on the land for perpetuity.

Senate Bill 323 would have limited the easements to 50 years.

Several senators said federal military installations need the easements in perpetuity to protect the bases from residences and businesses developing close to their operations.

With a round of federal base closures expected in the next few years, "I don't think now is a good time for us to risk this," said state Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan.

State Sen. Jeff Longbine, R-Emporia, noted that the military in Kansas has a $7.5 billion annual economic impact and provides 165,000 jobs.

State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth, amended the bill to allow military operations to get easements in perpetuity, but opponents of the bill said military officials were still skeptical of the legislation.

"I don't think we understand what the implications are," state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence. She also said the measure would have interfered with private property rights.

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