High-Profile Dispute Between Farm, Green Group Yields Property Rights Bill


After clashing with a non-profit land trust over the terms and conditions of a conservation easement that sits on her property, Martha Boneta saw no alternative to litigation.

That’s because the Piedmont Environmental Council, which serves as a co-holder of the easement, had overstepped its authority to the point where it was trespassing across her property without any meaningful oversight, Boneta alleged in an interview with The Daily Signal.

But thanks to new legislation that Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe is set to sign into law, property owners can ask the Virginia Land Conservation Foundation to step in and mediate disputes with land trusts like the PEC. The idea behind conservation easement is for property owners to receive tax breaks in exchange for agreeing to set aside a portion of their property for conservation.

The Conservation Transparency Act, which has been dubbed Boneta Bill 2, passed in the General Assembly earlier this month.

“Until we had this legislation, there was no transparency, accountability or standards placed on land trusts,” said Boneta, who owns and operates Liberty Farm in Fauquier County, Va. “As a result, groups like the PEC were making decisions acting like prosecutor, judge and jury, leaving the landowner with no alternative to …read more