Oklahoma State Senator Casey Murdock (R) has filed Senate Bill 980 that gives local governing authorities the ability to approve or deny a conservation easement placed on private land within their jurisdiction.
The bill is similar to the Nebraska Statute 76-2,112(3), which gives counties this same authority. Many counties in Nebraska have recently used this provision to deny easements they find conflicts with their local comprehensive plans.
The Nebraska Department of Revenue found that conservation easements, such as those issued by the Natural Resource Conservation Service, devalue the land by 40 percent. This directly decreases tax revenue to the local government reducing their ability to provide necessary services but also causes the tax bill of other landowners to increase.
Conservation easements tend to cluster around existing protected areas, which is one of the stated goals of President Biden’s 30×30 initiative to create large, protected ecosystems that cross jurisdictional boundaries.
The consequence of creating large ecosystems will create significant pressure on local governments to fund schools, hospitals, fire districts, and emergency services, such as police departments, as well as infrastructure projects like road construction and maintenance.
The Oklahoma bill sets forth the following directive:
“In order to minimize conflicts with land-use planning, each conservation easement shall be approved by the appropriate governing body.”
Senator Murdock, served in the Oklahoma House from 2014-2018, and has held his Senate seat since 2018. He currently holds the leadership position of Majority Whip.
To learn more about the impact of Conservation Easements, download the report entitled “Conservation Easements or Servitude? 13 Key Points Landowners Need to Know About Conservation Easements.”