Sunday, August 2, 2009

The real estate company that cares

The Native Forest Council founder Timothy G. Hermach criticized the Nature Conservancy for its practice to sell land in Texas to its own trustees, who then allowed drilling for oil in the formerly protected areas. After the press exposed these and other actions, the Nature Conservancy established a risk evaluation committee and explored ways to mitigate the damage. Hermach still calls the conservancy “the real estate company that cares.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

TNC sparks tax battle in Wisconsin

The Nature Conservancy notified Sauk County Wisconsin officials that the organization would no longer be paying taxes on 9,000 acres located in several parcels. TNC also announced that it was eliminating two local jobs due to financial difficulties. The change will be devastating to some local towns. An official for one of the towns affected said they would lose more than 50% of their tax revenue used to provide municipal services. The Nature Conservancy proposes making voluntary payments totaling about half of the former tax bill to help make up for the shortfall.
Other than the federal government, The Nature Conservancy is the only landowner with property in all 50 states that is exempt from income taxes and can also stipulate that it will not pay local property taxes. One of the Wisconsin municipal officials is quoted as saying "When they purchased that property, they said they were going to be good residents of the municipalities and they were going to pay property taxes," said supervisor Paul Endres of North Freedom. "If they aren't going to pay property taxes, they should sell the property."
According to the most recent financial filings, The Nature Conservancy had 1.4 billion in revenue and only $900 million in expenses. As a tax-exempt entity, the $500 million net revenue is also exempt from income tax.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Nature Conservancy blamed for decline in US fish population

The Nature Conservancy is notoriously recognized in the "Cold, Dead Fish Awards in 2008" for their actions contributing to the decline of U.S. fish populations. reports that this year's competition was fierce "as corrupt politicians, agribusiness leaders, corporate polluters and their allies launched a full-scale offensive on the imperiled fish populations of California and the West".

Friday, January 16, 2009

Paniced municipalities blame The Nature Conservancy

Only hours after The Nature Conservancy announced that it is reacting to property tax increases by refusing to pay them, local governments are responding by warning of the coming financial problems within their communities. Municipal governments pay for schools, roads and local services through property taxes. In some municipalities The Nature Conservancy is both the largest landowner and the largest taxpayer. If they don't pay their fair share, the community can be financially devastated.

The Nature Conservancy is the world's largest real estate broker with earned revenues and cash reserves that exceed the amounts of most of the nation's largest for-profit businesses. There is no doubt that The Nature Conservancy could afford to pay its tax bill. Municipal governments do not have the legal authority to force The Nature Conservancy to pay taxes on property it owns so some people are now calling for federal legislation to force The Nature Conservancy to pay.

When private citizens and for-profit companies do not pay their real estate tax bill, the property can be seized and sold at auction in a process known as a "tax sale". This procedure does not currently apply to non-profit corporations like The Nature Conservancy. We support proposed federal legislation that would extend the same procedures to land owned by The Nature Conservancy.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Nature Conservancy cuts local WI school revenues

The Nature Conservancy announced that it will stop paying taxes on the land it owns in some rural communities- taxes that local government use to fund schools, roads and other critical local services.

Rural communities that are locates in areas where The nature Conservancy is the largest landowner know that they cannot financially survive without TNCs support, so this could be the beginning of the end of these communities. We suppose that after some years of struggle these communities will deteriorate financially, people will move out, foreclosures will increase, and property values will fall.

But have no fear, once the communities start to look like ghost towns then The Nature Conservancy will be there to buy up the remaining properties from the former residents for at pennies on the former dollar value and then sell this land back to the state's taxpayers at a big profit.

Monday, October 13, 2008

13% of earth now protected by environmentalists

The Nature Conservancy turned heads earlier this year by announcing an ambitious plan to protect 10% of the world's total land. This appeared to be a strikingly ambitious land acquisition endeavor; in fact the largest real estate acquisition proposal in history. But with declining land prices and a worldwide credit crunch, the cash-rich Nature Conservancy has often the only available buyer to farmers and landowners who need to sell. It is not surprising that conservation land deals are moving forward at a record pace this year. Still, no one expected to find such a dramatic change in land conservation totals so quickly.

Now Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy announces that 13% of the world's land surface is now protected open space in a new book "The World's Protected Areas, examines the relationship between people and protected areas". Mr. Spalding says that the amount of protected land is now equivalent in size to the total amount of the world's croplands. It is not clear whether TNC underestimates the amount of land previously under conservation prior to announcing its goal or whether the land acquisition project has progressed beyond its stated goals.

In the past The Nature Conservancy has relied primarily on a strategy of purchasing open land from private landowners and selling the land back to local governments at higher prices. This strategy vaulted TNC the world's wealthiest organizations. More recently, TNC began promoting a conservation easement program that allows farmers and rural landowners to continue to own and use the land, but prevented future development. Purchasing easements is less expensive than purchasing land and may be better for preserving the stability of rural and agricultural communities.

No comment has be issued by The Nature Conservancy about how this recent announcement of 13% will affect its plans for future land acquisitions. It seems reasonable possible given the current worldwide real estate market that environmental groups like TNC could continue to acquire land at a rapid pace and possible boost the total amount of protected land to 15% to 20% of the earth's surface. It seems unlikely that attainment of the 10% goal would deter TNC from future land acquisitions.

Mr. Spalding points out that our waterways and oceans are not equally protected, with only 1/2 of one percent of the world's oceans under conservation easement. Freshwater protection is even lower. This might represent the next major "growth market" for TNC acquisitions with potential consequences on water users and fishing industries. Noting that this major announcement is made by a marine scientist lends credibility to my suspicion that TNC is gearing for an increase in oceanic and waterway ventures. The fact that Mr. Spalding's announcement was strategically published overseas in The Daily Telegraph rather than in more critical U.S. news sources (due to the current political debate on use of offshore oil reserves) also makes me believe that this book announcement is part of a larger strategic maneuver by TNC.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

conservation at any cost

Coverage of The Nature Conservancy's brokerage of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina mentions by Triangle Business Journal completely ommitted the financial details of the deal. Taxpayers would likely be shocked at the hefty price they are paying for the brokerage services of The Nature Conservancy. Yet if news reporters like this one at Triangle Busines Journal take their coverage facts solely from the press releases put out by The Nature Conservancy, we are certain to avoid focus on the cost to taxpayers or the huge brokerage payments paid for the deals. Clearly The Nature Conservancy relies on a "conservation at any cost" mentality of Americans today to continue to accrue hundreds of millions of profits (sorry, TNC is "non-profit" and non-taxable so we don't call the money "profits"). The ability to sell to taxpayers and governments makes TNC the world's largest and richest land broker.

We are not saying that this deal is not in the best interest of taxpayers or that the motives are suspect, but we are saying that full disclosure and reporting of the financial aspects of these huge transactions is absolutely essential.