Hats off to the Washington Post. They took a look at the easement way of "saving" Civil War battlefield land and came up with a whole new take.

Basically "easements" is a misnomer for restrictive covenants. These tend to be supervised by non-landowners. Groups saving farmland, for instance, will typically contract with a landowner and then budget a certain amount for return visites to ensure the other party has lived up to the deal. Easement owners have a say in any changes made to the property.

So it is in battlefield preservation. My own objection to easements has been that these covenants can be removed; that they are vulnerable to being voided by a simple vote of any state legislature; that they allow self-serving preservation organizations to putter around at the fringes of a problem they should be tackling head on; and that they are subject to skulduggery (friends buying easements from friends using third-party funds.)

A reader recently pointed out to me that many people buying land near Fox's or Turner's Gap here in Maryland want to get away to a simpler time, a simpler life. They do not want to enter into restrictive covenants with state and federal agencies, nor with private ones. They certainly do not want to be supervised or go through a many-step approval process to add a garage or bedroom onto their home.

This aspect of "easements" is highlighted in a recent Washington Post article, which sees easements as a difficult sell.

Unfortunately, if preservation organizations are unwilling to pay developer rates for battlefield land, if they refuse to do the job they were chartered for, then easements are a handy way of playing at preservation. But even in the matter of easements, the preservationsist are "penny wise and pound foolish" - look:

But Walters, who owns 33 acres, said he is no longer interested in selling development rights. For one thing, two years of on-again, off-again discussions with preservationists never led to a price he could be satisfied with, he said.

I believe this referrs to Civil War Preservation Trust which is morbidly sensitive to being taken advantage of by battlefield property owners. We saw how their parsimony lost the Mullins farm last week. Now we see, some penny-pinchers cannot even buy an easement without permanently alienating the landowner.

Read the article.