Conservation abuse targeted |

Conservation abuse targeted

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” A new oversight commission will be keeping a closer eye on conservation easements in Colorado and hopefully weed out some of the rare but serious abuses of the tax credits given to land donors, says Cindy Cohagen, executive director of the Eagle Valley Land Trust.

When property owners donate land for preservation, guaranteeing it won’t be developed and will remain untouched open space, they also receive substantial tax credits. The Division of Real Estate began investigating conservation easement abuse last fall, revealing more than $100 million in suspect tax credits.

Three real estate appraisers lost their licenses and were charged with overvaluing easements to increase tax credits.

The Conservation Easement Oversight Committee was created as part of House Bill 1353. The nine member commission will meet about once a quarter to review applications for conservation easements and will work with the Division of Real Estate to curb tax credit abuses, said division director Erin Toll.

“We are pleased it was signed into law,” Cohagen said. “Unfortunately, in the conservation community, for all the good we do, there are a few bad apples that have created issues for all of us.”

That’s why creating more oversight seems like the right thing to do, she said.

“We hope it will restore public confidence in land conservation efforts,” Cohagen said.

The Eagle Valley Land Trust has been preserving land here since 1982. It holds easements on 17 parcels spanning the county, from East Vail to the entrance of Glenwood Canyon and from Yarmony Mountain at the Routt County border to Taylor City on Tennessee Pass.

Overall, the trust is protecting more than 10,000 acres of land.

House Bill 1353 adds some more restrictions, including requiring conservation easement holders to receive certification.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or

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