Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Spin breeds more spin

A small startup company in Texas called Avasaire Cosmetics announced that a portion of all its sales will be going to The Nature Conservancy. I don't blame them; it is smat marketing. Cosmetics is a competitive business playing almost completely on image and public perception. Market positioning is everything. The Nature Conservancy certainly knows this. Among their greatest achievements is the development of a public image as "the good guy" leading the cause toward worldwide conservation while diverting attention from the corruption within the organization, shady political dealings, bullying of private land owners and a pattern of greed that would make any Fortune 500 company blush. But a small business aligning itself with TNC is certainly a smart marketing move. Unfortunately we all know that brilliant product marketing has lead to some really awful things for our society (think junk foods, video games, bottled water, SUVs, etc.).

I wrote the small company owners to suggest they find a more worthy environmental group to support. There are plenty of them - unfortunately none with the marketing savvy or ability to spin public opinion like TCN.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Landowners Beware

The National Center for Public Policy Research is publicizing a paper "Conservation Easements: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly," posted online at The paper details many of the concerns expressed here on this forum and includes stories of individuals and families whose lives have been unturned by the powerful legal resources of The Nature Conservancy. The story also throws light on the issue of The Nature Conservancy's hugely profitable business model that centers on "flipping" conservation easements to the government at taxpayer expense. The underlying issue is that the public is not aware of the huge power that The Nature Conservancy has amassed as the largest and most profitable land broker and their track record in using that power against property owners.

A press release titled "Landowners Beware - The Government's Found a New Way to Control Your Land" was released today.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tax watchdogs criticize The Nature Conservancy deal

Grassley Watch blog criticises the inclusion of $250 million taxpayer funds that goes to The Nature Conservancy under the much-criticized recent farm bill. The "tax refund" to the tax-exempt organization amounts to nothing more than a subsidy.

Citizens Against Government Waste, another consumer watchdog, is also criticizing the federal grant that subsidizes The Nature Conservancy for the purchase of a tract of land known as Plum Creek. See The author refers to The Nature Conservancy as a "gazillionaire environmental group".

The Republican Study Committee says:
"The Plum Creek Timber Company is attempting to sell the land to the “Nature Conservancy” – which the Washington Post exposed as the “world’s richest environmental group, amassing $3 billion in assets.” The earmark would allow the Nature Conservancy to claim a $250 million “tax refund,” providing incentive for the group to purchase the land from Plum Creek. The tax refund would be provided even though the Nature Conservancy is a non-profit group that does not pay taxes".

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Georgia Governor profits from land deal

Georgia’s Governor Purdue is implicated in a land scandal where apparently he “flipped” land in 2006 for a substantial profit that was located adjacent to the Oaky Woods land development project. The Nature Conservancy tried to buy the land at less than market value with a government-issued restriction on its use that would have made it useless to developers. The Governor refused to pave the way for the deal proposed by The Nature Conservancy. Perhaps he wondered why The Nature Conservancy should be the sole entity to profit from the government’s power to control land use. The land was then sold to developers instead at a much higher price; apparently about three times what The Nature Conservancy was trying to negotiate. The Governor made a profit of more than $450,000 on land that he owned for a mere 18 months.

We all recognize the value of setting aside natural lands for preservation. But the strategy commonly employed The Nature Conservancy employs to acquire land at less than fair market value hurts the land owners, the local community and ultimately the state’s taxpayers. The practice has been hugely successful in helping The Nature Conservancy pile up billions in tax-free profits on land deals throughout the nation. Local taxpayers pay the price as this land is immediately removed from the community’s tax base that is used as the primary source of funding for schools and roads. To add insult to injury, this land is often re-sold back to the state to be used as a park at substantial profit for The Nature Conservancy. While this is not an excuse for the Governor's behavior, the TNC actions to secure profits in land acquisition deals are no more acceptable than flipping land by an investor with inside control.