National crackdown on easements begins

The creation of land use covenants that restrict development, construction, and improvement has been the cornerstone of Civil War preservation activity, especially by Civil War Preservation Trust. The Trust even uses language like "permanent" and "forever" to describe these types of agreements (misleadingly called "easements").

As pointed out here previously, restrictive use covenants came under attack nationwide in the late 19th Century and were largely outlawed state by state under so-called mortmain laws; the living at that time would not be trammeled by the dead in their enjoyment of property. The decline of anti-covenant sentiment since WWI is a temporary phenomenon of culture, politics, and demographics; and as the 19th Century proved, a single sitting of any state legislature can enact mortmain legislation, sweeping away in a moment all easements on record. Covenants may use language like "permanent" or "eternal" but that does not make things so. The only real protection available to a battlefield is bestowed by private (not public) ownership and a private commitment not to develop, not to multipurpose the land.

I expect to see population pressures in Washington and Northern Virginia to result in laws that extinguish our expensive notional battlefield protections over the next 10-20 years. Meanwhile, the federal government has opened an indirect attack on these covenants:
The Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress has recommended radical cutbacks in the tax deductions for easement donors. The report recommends: cutting the deductions for donating an easement by two-thirds; eliminating deductions for donations of easements on land where the landowner lives -- meaning that farmers who live on their land would receive no tax deduction whatsoever; and limiting deductions for donations of property to the landowner's basis in the property.
The temptation of your favorite Civil War preservationists might be to rally you to spend time and money fighting this legislative development. Don't be distracted.

The mission of a save-the-battlefields group can only be to buy and manage Civil War property. All else is make-believe. The easement dream is fading. Lets get down to real preservation.