Washington, D.C. - This week, Representatives Michelle Fischbach (MN-07) and Kelly Armstrong (ND) introduced the Landowner Easement Act. This bill would prohibit the Department of the Interior (DOI) from entering into a conservation easement with a term of more than 50 years. It would also give owners of existing easements the option to renegotiate, renew, or buy out the easement.
"This legislation would stop permanent landgrabs while providing a mechanism for landowners to resolve easement disputes, giving producers agency in protecting their property from federal bureaucrats,” said Congresswoman Fischbach. “I thank my colleague, Congressman Armstrong, for his support and look forward to ensuring private property rights for Minnesotan’s and North Dakotans are protected."
“Our legislation will put power back into the hands of farmers and landowners, giving them the ability to renegotiate or buy out U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service easements created before 1977. I am proud to work with Congresswoman Fischbach to end the practice of permanent easements and give North Dakota's producers the tools and leeway they need to make sound conservation decisions,” said Congressman Armstrong.
This bill also has the support of the corn growers associations:
"The Minnesota Corn Growers Association is pleased to support the Landowner Easement Rights Act introduced by Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Kelly Armstrong. This legislation is important to protecting private property rights by ensuring that government easements are transparent, even-handed, and temporary while adequately compensating landowners and preventing them from being effectively deprived of the full fee simple value of their property. The legislation is based on a bipartisan bill introduced last Congress and we thank Reps. Fischbach and Armstrong for their good work."
"The North Dakota Corn Growers Association applauds Representatives Armstrong and Fischbach for recognizing that the wetlands easement process has been wrought with problems from day one. This legislation will strengthen farmers ability to control the future of the land they live on and protect for future generations. It would be a tremendous tool to advance our growers’ private property rights.”
It also has the support of farmers who are directly affected by these easements. Richard Syverson, a grain farmer in Minnesota's 7th District, said "As a farmer who has issues with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), I fully support the Landowner Easement Rights Act. Farmers I have talked to never intended to sell the rights to their land forever. By capping easements at fifty years and providing an opportunity to dispute existing agreement, this bill will allow the USFWS to focus their efforts on lands that actually support wildlife and ease the conflict with farmers on lands that are wholly agricultural. This achieves long term conservation goals without an easement that goes beyond the planning horizon of a human life."