Conservation easements in Colorado are being used to protect valuable home sites and areas earmarked for oil and gas exploration and development, not the open spaces the easements were designed to preserve.
An innovative state law designed to preserve Colorado's scenic open spaces and working ranches has, in dozens of cases, been used to protect everything from multimillion- dollar home sites in gated communities to tiny pieces of land slated for oil and gas development.
The law allots generous state income tax credits to property owners who agree to protect their lands from development. But in some cases, a Rocky Mountain News investigation has found, the law has been used to generate tax credits on lands with questionable public value.
In addition, the investigation found, appraisals on some properties granted protection have been grossly inflated. The higher the appraisal, the greater the tax credit.