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Effort to restrict conservation easements fails

PIERRE -- Rep. Betty Olson didn't find many takers Monday for her plan to restrict new conservation easements to no longer than 99 years in South Dakota.

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The state House of Representatives rejected her legislation 51-17. The defeat was worse than two years ago when her 30-year limit was killed 45-22.

Opponents of this year's version, HB 1083, said it would take away federal tax advantages for estates.

"I don't think it's fair to change the rules in the middle of the game," said Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland.

The federal tax codes can be changed to recognize easements aren't forever, said Rep. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center.

"Easements are more durable than marriage, more durable than life itself," he said.

Rep. Charlie Hoffman said landowners need to read the easement offers and be aware of what will be provided.

"No one's putting a bullet to someone's head to sign a perpetual easement," said Hoffman, R-Eureka. "It's our land."

Olson, R-Prairie City, said the legislation wouldn't have any effect on land already enrolled in perpetual conservation easements.

She said the 99-year limit would allow a future owner to have an opportunity to change the land's use.

"Perpetuity is a long, long time," Olson said. "I would gather none of us is going to be here in 99 years, but let's protect our future generations."