Among other things, the Saint Simons Land Trust has sent out the following message:

On March 27, the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance announced that it was investigating the “potential abuse of syndicated conservation easements.” In such transactions, a syndicate will obtain inflated appraisals of land, resulting in inflated charitable deductions. The participants are essentially profiting “from gaming the tax code,” according to the Senate Committee’s press release, and depriving the federal government of billions in revenue.

This kind of abuse is in direct opposition to the work of the St. Simons Land Trust. “We purchase property in arms-length transactions,” says Executive Director David Pope. “We obtain appraisals from qualified local appraisers, whose business depends on their honesty and good reputation. We operate on gifts from donors, not on fees generated by tax shelters.”

The national Land Trust Alliance, of which the SSLT is an accredited member, endorses the Charitable Conservation Easement Program Integrity Act that “preserves the good reputation of our nation’s land appraisers and conservationists. It stops bad actors from profiting. It safeguards taxpayers. And it provides Congress a concise and sensible solution that’s ready for passage,” according to the Alliance’s President and CEO, Andrew Bowman.

“We welcome the investigation by the Senate Finance Committee,” says Pope, “and hope for the passage of legislation that will firmly deal with those who abuse the system.”

REALLY? That is not what the easements for the Reserve on Sea Island, the Old Stables Corner and Cannon’s Point are about? If not, then why have the plats for Cannon’s Point and the Old Stables Corner not been vacated and the land zoned for conservation? Why does the easement for the Old Stables Corner specify that if the St. Simons Land Trust decides to sell, the Owner of the adjacent commercial property will have first refusal? Why has the SSLT agreed to clear out the natural vegetation under the oaks so the commercial establishments will not be obscured? Why have they not objected to the clear cutting of the little remaining swamp along the north side of Sea Island Road.

In my book, manicuring and monetizing the environment for the exclusive use of resort guests and horseback riders is not conservation. I call that pimping Mother Nature.