HB 1152 – On the merits of conservation easements

Today in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, HB 1152 is being heard. Conservation easement limits, the perpetual bill that always comes to the legislature

The gist of the arguments against perpetual easements is that the people entering into these easements either a) don’t know what they’re doing, or b) are improperly limiting land use for future generations. Insulting the intelligence of perpetual easement owners is generally not a good strategy, particularly when those easements are not made lightly. People entering into these agreements know exactly what they are doing.

The statement was also made today be a proponent that no one really “owns” the land, that we are just stewards. It needs to be pointed out that this argument is only made when it is convenient, particularly when made from people who do own land, who do things to that land that permanently and at times irrevocably change it, and who make a profit off that land use. And not only that, but that by law, ownership of land does exist, as do the rights that come with it – including the right to decide to put land into a perpetual conservation easement. Several legislators on the House committee have agreed we are stewards of the land, ownership or not. That is truth.

Here’s the key: development permanently changes land. Protection of that land should also, then, be permanent. It is our nature to develop, use, use up, and in the process, often destroy. There needs to be in law a way to permanently protect land that has not yet been subjected to development or which can perhaps be saved from further development. If anything, to protect us against ourselves until we as a culture and a society re-balance our need for progress with a recognition of the value of land and water simply because they exist.

Proponents: Rep. McCleerey, Stockgrowers, Corn Growers, Sen. Olson.

Opponents: Department of Transportation, Northern Prairies Land Trust, South Dakota State Bar Association, Ducks Unlimited, Isaak Walton League, several individual landowners, SD Game Fish and Parks.

VOTE: Originally moved as do-pass, a substitute motion was made by Rep. Otten to send the bill to the 41st day. The motion passed, 7-6.
Brunner: No
Craig: Yes
Fieckert: Yes
Harrison: Yes
Marty: No
Otten: Yes
Shaefer: No
Schoenfish: Yes
Shrempp: No
Werner: Yes
Klumb: No
Qualm: No

Quote of the day: “There is no cap on the right to pursue happiness – there is not a 100 year limit.” Rep. Scott Craig, in explaining that when the right to own property was changed to the right to pursue happiness, there were not limits placed. He voted against the bill.



  1. So well stated and thank you for keeping us abreast of these legislations. To quote Leopold “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

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