Friday, October 20, 2006

Nature Conservancy Opposes Proposition 2

After careful deliberation, the Board of Trustees of the Idaho Chapter of The Nature Conservancy has voted to oppose Proposition 2. We believe that this ballot measure poses a direct threat to what Idahoans value most about our state, including family farms and ranches, wildlife, clean water, outdoor recreation, and our way of life.

The Nature Conservancy is a strictly non-partisan group that works through voluntary agreements with landowners. We believe in conserving Idaho’s great places by using cooperation, free market solutions, and a business-like approach. And we respect property rights in all we do.

The Idaho Chapter’s decision is unprecedented. In our 30 years of work in this state, we have never taken a position on a ballot issue – until now. We step forward only due to the depth of our concerns about Proposition 2.

The backers of Proposition 2 claim that the measure is needed to ensure that eminent domain could never be used to take private property for private commercial development purposes – as was permitted in the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo v. City of New London. The truth is that the Idaho Legislature passed House Bill 555 last spring to restrict eminent domain for commercial development and effectively overturn the Kelo case in Idaho. Proposition 2 is not really about eminent domain.

The real damage of Proposition 2 would come from a separate section found deep in the text of the measure. This provision can be read to require taxpayers to compensate developers when new laws and ordinances prevent them from pursuing the densest subdivision development or “highest” use of their land. This sweeping financial entitlement has never been a feature of America’s law of property rights.

If Proposition 2 is approved, we question whether communities will be able to manage our state’s rapid growth or whether working farms and ranches—essential to our state’s economy—would be able to survive.

The only certainty we see in Proposition 2 is litigation, confusion, expense, and new burdens on the taxpayer. In the places we work, those are not good things for anyone.

The Nature Conservancy is a property owner in Idaho, at places such as Silver Creek, Cougar Bay, and Thousand Springs. Our neighborhoods include family farms and ranches, private timberlands, rural communities, and vital wildlife habitat. Wherever we work, we believe that one of our most important duties is to be a good neighbor.

We feel compelled to speak out because Proposition 2 is bad for our neighborhoods. If you care about our agricultural and forestry economies; hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation; healthy neighborhoods and private ranches, Proposition 2 threatens what you value.

Our choices today will shape our legacy for future generations. By voting “no” on Proposition 2, we can help to ensure a future that includes what we love most about Idaho.

Contact: Will Whelan at 208-350-2202

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