Senate Hearing Highlights Lingering Easement Issues

Colorado hasn't completely put problems with its sometimes-troubled conservation easement program behind it, judging from testimony given today at a Joint Special Legislative Hearing on Conservation Easements.

Although Colorado has made progress in working through past issues, mostly stemming from disputes over the accuracy of land appraisals and the value of tax credits land owners receive for placing private parcels under “conservation easements,” some easement holders continue to be embroiled in such disputes, according to testimony given Wednesday.

This raises the possibility that further reforms may be needed in order to put these issues to rest.

State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg (R-District 1), who chairs the committee, called the hearing "a fact-finding session aimed at determining what needs to be done, if anything, to resolve lingering disputes and hopefully put these problems in the past." The standing-room-only turnout for an off-session hearing, which included testimony from a number of prominent former lawmakers, suggests that easement-related disputes and controversies remain, said Sonnenberg.

"I think we’ve made progress in resolving most, though obviously not all, of the issues we’ve had in the state’s easement program," added Senator Kevin Grantham (R-District 2), who also has taken a strong interest in the easement issue. "Perhaps today's hearing will suggest ways we can finally put these issues behind us and move forward."

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