Balancing Private Landowner Rights And Preventing Federal Takeover; Supervisors Discuss 30×30

CUSTER COUNTY— Finding the balance between private owners rights and preventing land from being turned over to the federal government was the main topic of discussion at the Custer County Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, May 11.

During their April 13 meeting, a number of landowners spoke against the 30×30 initiative which concerns protecting 30% of US land and coastal water by 2030. Those who spoke voiced their concerns about the federal government using conservation easements and other means that would allow the government to control the land regardless of who owns it in the future.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Custer County Attorney Steve Bowers said he has been working with Zoning Administrator Darci Tibbs about what could be done to prevent land from being passed from one organization to another that may eventually be turned over to the federal government. Bowers recommended that the zoning regulations be changed so that if a landowner wants to take part in a conservation easement, a conditional use permit must be approved.

Through the conditions of the permit, if the conservation easement contract comes to an end, the land will be turned back over to the original landowner and cannot be sold by the organization that is part of the conservation easement (i.e. Ducks Unlimited) to other organizations.

“I think this will balance what a private landowner wants to do with his own land, but it is also saying you [landowner] entered into an agreement with these specific people, not eight people down the road,” said Bowers.

Bowers stated he looked at Brown and Clay Counties on what they were doing regarding the easements and found that Clay County was specifically saying that educating landowners not to sell to any potential government agency. “The problem is the ‘ghost owners’ who don’t live here [Clay County] that will be more willing to sell their land that they don’t live on.”

Bowers did note the biggest issue he could see going forward is private landowners being upset that the county is restricting what they can and cannot do with their own land. He also said that the board has to be consistent with each application.

No decision was made by the board regarding the topic, but a resolution will be drawn up that will state Custer County is against the 30×30 Executive Order. While the resolution could be approved at the next meeting, the resolution is simply a statement against the order and does not carry any legal weight.

Also discussed during the meeting were the township loan extensions. Five township loans will be due in the next week and Supervisor Barry Fox informed the townships that were at the meeting, the board would be extending their loans if they made a good faith effort and paid 25% of the original loan by May 21.

If the parameters were met, the county would extend the loan by an additional year. One of the township board members asked if the loans could be extended further than one year, but Fox stated that due to state regulations they could only be extended one year at a time.

Other approvals included the NE Dept. of Ag Noxious Weed Program Report, approving Emergency Manager Mark Rempe to serve on the Nebraska Regional Inoperability Network Board of Directors, directing road studies, and approving the County Bridge Match Certification.