Accountability of conservation easements could be better, audit reportsby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Legislative Auditor says the legislature should ensure better accountability for conservation easements.
According to a report by the Legislative Auditor's office, the Department of Natural Resources should do a better job overseeing land under conservation easement in Minnesota.
In a conservation easement, a landowner voluntarily limits development or other activities on the land. Easements can protect wild and scenic rivers, habitat and other natural resources. They're often acquired by non-profit groups, using state money.
The report's author, Judy Randall, evaluation manager for the Office of the Legislative Auditor, said easements are a valuable tool that require continued attention.
"They last into perpetuity, so monitoring easements is a really important way to make sure that we're protecting that initial investment," Randall said.
Randall said the DNR itself does not meet monitoring requirements, partly because of a lack of money .Randall recommends the legislature require approval of easements purchased by nonprofits that cost the state $500,000 or more.
"We didn't find huge problems but we did find a lot of opportunities to improve oversight and accountability, and this is a relatively new tool. and since it lasts forever we want to make sure we're doing it right," Randall said.