Acres and Pains
Senate panel recommends tighter regulation of land conservancies
A two-year investigation by the Senate Finance Committee may lead to big changes in federal regulation of America’s land conservancies. The panel’s report recommends that the IRS “consider revoking the tax-exempt status of a conservation organization that regularly and continuously fails to monitor and enforce conservation easements” — and that it fine officers and directors of such groups. The investigation was spurred by dubious doings at The Nature Conservancy, initially uncovered in a 2003 investigative series by The Washington Post. The alleged misdeeds of the organization included incomplete financial reporting, insider land deals with Conservancy trustees who then got huge tax breaks, buying land and services from corporations whose execs sat on the group’s board, and letting owners build, drill, or log on supposedly protected land. The Conservancy says the report focuses mostly on past practices that it has reformed.