SUNDAY | It will come as a shock to many, but the keystone of battlefield preservation programs, the obtaining of restrictive land covenants - easements - takes advantage of a relatively new legal landscape.

One hundred years ago and into the 1930s, one could not encumber land with the restrictions currently engineered by farmland rescue bodies, by wildlife conservators, or by CWPT. Most states had laws against it - it was in part both a reaction against deathbed giving to charities and a reaction against those who would take land for housing off the market.

The people of that time called the creation of development restrictions in perpetuity "mortmain" (dead hand) contracts. The term lives on in law. And when the public had enough of mortmain, they swept it away in almost all of the Unites States with new laws, at the state level, passed with simple majorities.

You may think a battlefield easement is perpetual, but it's as fragile as the outcome of the next state election. And any strategy that creates easements for those battlefields in those areas subject to the greatest housing pressures invites a replay of the great backlash against mortmain that once swept this country.

There is no substitute for owning the land - none - and for the owning organization itself to be under a restrictive development charter with broad oversight from its civic-minded members.

Does that describe Civil War Preservation Trust?