Mich. bill would open conservancy lands or tax them
A Michigan lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require all land conservancies in his state to either pay property taxes or open themselves up to “all use,” including motorized recreation, according to the Northern Michigan Review.
Under the state constitution, nonprofit organizations with educational or religious purposes are exempt from paying property taxes. The Nature Conservancy, which allows hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on thousands of acres it owns, is tax exempt to protect
“We’re more than happy to allow access where it’s appropriate, but our donors didn’t give us money to simply provide unlimited recreational access. They gave money to us to acquire land and to protect our biological resources,” Rich Bowman, director of government relations for The Nature Conservancy’s Lansing chapter, told the newspaper.
Tom Bailey, executive director of the Little Traverse Conservancy in Harbor Springs, said, “I’d hate to see four-wheelers running up and down the beach, or running over the threatened and endangered plants that grow on some of those properties. I think that would be a big mistake.”
According to the newspaper, the bill introduced by state Sen. Tom Casperson, an Escanaba Republican, was prompted by The Nature Conservancy requiring $5 million in liability insurance (reduced to a $2-million policy) from the organizers of a dogsled race before allowing the race to cross conservancy land.
Casperson said it was wrong that The Nature Conservancy could prevent an event that would bring in tourism revenue, especially since the organization didn’t pay property taxes. He said those lands should be operated like commercial lands owned by logging companies which enjoy tax breaks in exchange for allowing hunting, fishing and other public recreation.
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