Conserv's tax free status threatened

FionaNyx FionaNyx at aol.com
Sat Jan 24 23:20:18 EST 1998


Hi,

There has been a recent trend of municipal governments seeking to generate
revenues by challenging the tax-free status of organizations within their
boundaries.  In PA, where I live, some organizations lost their tax-free
status because it was decided they were not completely non-profit.

Now it seems, this trend is spreading to elimination of tax-free status for
conservation land trusts and education projects.  This is very short sighted.
The counties in question need to hear about it and the eco- and general public
need to hear about this.

Attacking these municipalities is not going to solve the problem.  Although, I
feel they do need to hear that their plan is short sighted and will cost the
region in real dollars due to the loss of these resources as a drawing point
for their communities (people wanting to move there, not moving away, and
tourism) if it goes through.  The ironic thing is that I believe Raleigh has a
green spaces plan which they are presently enforcing through planning or
zoning ordinances.

In my opinion, the real culprits in this are the Republicans who generated a
huge deficit and are now using it as an excuse to slash federal funding to
states and municipalites.  And we, the electorate are responsible for
permitting this situation to continue.  More of this sort of thing will happen
until we put somebody else in charge of our country.  The closing of your
local conservancy IS connected to all those disaffected people in your
comunity who don't vote! 

~~FionaNyx at aol.com/ aka Sherry

Attached please find the press release, "Two Counties Revoke Tax Break 
for Land Conservation & Environmental Education."

We are trying to encourage as many letters of support as possible for Long
Branch's mission of ecological conservation and environmental education,
either from groups, communities, or individuals who believe in protecting
our mountains' ecology and educating the public about sustainable ways to
inhabit and caretake the earth.  Please forward this message on to others 
you think might be inspired to write on our behalf.

Even though there is a long tradition of nature conservation and 
protection
recognized by both the federal and state government through such devices 
asconservation easements and protected status,  it's ironic that these 
two local county governments don't seem to see the long-term value of land
conservation.  What a debacle it would be if other counties were to follow
their lead and deny protection of ecologically sensitive areas. . . .

If we can't expect Washington or Raleigh to protect all the critical 
habitats
and species that are deserving of protection, then it will be up to
non-profit groups, communities, and individuals to preserve and protect
what natural treasures still remain.

So when non-profits are attacked and are denied tax relief to protect wild
areas and biological diversity for the public interest and future
generations, who will be left to speak for conservation of the wild?

Please send letters of support to Long Branch Environmental Education 
Center,
POB 369, Leicester, NC 28748.  Our attorney will be compiling all letters 
as
a part of our official appeal.
Please address these letters to:  NC Property Tax  Commission, POB 871,
Raleigh, NC 27602.

This is a landmark, precedent-setting case for all non-profit 
organizations
with land holdings in the county and even across the state -- perhaps even
the country.  Your letter will be important.

     What's really at stake here is the future of land conservation -- not
only in the Southern Appalachian mountains, but potentially everywhere.
        If local county tax collectors can deny exempt status for the
Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land and other national, 
regional,
and local conservation organizations, what will be left that we can afford
to protect, and where will we draw the line?
        Who's going to draw up the rules for environmental triage?
        Environmental groups such as the Southern Appalachian Highland
Conservancy, Conservation Trust of NC, Audubon Society's Beaverlake
Preserve, RiverLink, Quality Forward and others will all be in jeopardy of
losing whatever land they're trying to protect.
        But why stop at environmental non-profits?  All schools (and don't
forget the Duke Forest!), hospitals, camps, churches (Billy Graham's The
Cove!), food banks, rape crisis centers, affordable housing groups,
community gardens -- the list goes on ad infinitum -- will all be
vulnerable.
        All of the work being done by the non-profit sector is potentially
at risk.
   There seems to be a climate of fearful  and reactionary
mean-spiritedness sweeping the country if you can judge by the outcome of
last November's election results and rejection of progressive initiatives
especially in Washington state.

        Our National Parks and Wilderness Areas are being severely
overused, and clearly the protection of critical habitat for rare,
threatened, and endangered species can't be accomplished with fragmented
federal and state initiatives. With a  super-charged, high RPM economy the
momentum for carving out  roads, second homes, and recreation developments
along with unabated exploitation of natural resources will go into
hyperdrive.

        Is this the future we're wanting to envision and create?
        If we don't create a consensus for conservation we'll outstrip 
wild
nature's ability to rebound, and we'll have allowed the imagery of the
wasteland to overshadow the green growing life force on the planet.
        We can't let this happen.
        Please help us reverse this trend of greed, ecological 
devastation,
and ultimately, our own self-destruction.
        Let's protect some of this remaining biological diversity for
future generations.

      "In the end, we will conserve only what we love.  We will love only
what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught."
                                                   -- Baba Diom, 
Conservationist

Thanks for your kindness and help.

For ecological conservation,

Paul Gallimore, Director
Long Branch Environmental Education Center
POB 369,        Leicester, NC 28748
704/683-3662    Fax: 704/683-9211       E-mail:  paulg at buncombe.main.nc.us
Web Site: http://main.nc.us/LBEEC/

"To restore the land one must live and work in a place.
To work in a place is to work with others.
People who work together in a place become a community, and a community, 
intime, grows a culture.  To work on behalf of the wild is to restore 
culture."  -- Gary Snyder


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information contact Paul Gallimore, 704/683-3662

Two Counties Revoke Tax Break for Land Conservation & Environmental 
Education

        For the second time this year, the Buncombe County Board of
Equalization and Review  has ruled to deny the 23 year-long property tax
exemption of the non-profit Long Branch Environmental Education Center in
Big Sandy Mush.

           Apparently following the lead of Buncombe, the  Haywood county
tax assessor has also declined to renew the Center's  property tax
exemption.  The Center is  protecting about 220 acres in the Beaverdam
section of the county in the Newfound Mountain range.

        In both counties, the Center  manages a total of approximately 
1635
acres as an ecological sanctuary and wildlife habitat preserve, and
conducts a variety of research activities and educational programs on its
land holdings, according to the Center's Director, Paul Gallimore.


        "The Center's property tax exemption was renewed in 1994 following
a routine review by the Buncombe County Tax Assessor.  But we were given 
no
reasons for the denial of our 23 year long tax-exemption on our original
land preserve," said Gallimore.

         In April 1995, however, the Center's request for property tax
exemption for an additional tract --  601 acres including Big Sandy Mush
Bald, the highest mountain in Buncombe County at 5,152 feet elevation, 
and its watershed -- was denied.

         The decision to revoke the Center's property tax exemption will 
be
appealed by the Center to the North Carolina Property Tax Commission in
Raleigh.

        The Center purchased the property with support from the Salisbury
Community Foundation and the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy 
in Asheville, which obtained a conservation easement to protect the 
ecological value of the land and prohibit commercial development.

        "We're concerned that our attempts to protect and preserve
additional land signal a shift in county policy toward land conservation,"
said Gallimore.

        "It appears that a radical shift in county land stewardship policy
has taken place with no public input or debate.  If true, this policy 
shift
could
affect other non profit organizations,  place other land preserves at 
risk,
and stymie further attempts to protect other ecologically significant 
areas,"
Gallimore said.

        The county's action comes at a time when the Center is
participating in a regional land conservation program to document areas of
environmental significance for a computer-based Geographic Information 
System (GIS).  The program is sponsored by the Land of Sky Regional 
Council of Governments, the umbrella organization for local governments 
in Madison, Buncombe, Henderson, and Transylvania counties.

        The decision to revoke the Center's property tax exemption will be
appealed by the Center to the North Carolina Property Tax Commission in
Raleigh.

        The Center's land conservation programs include:

o       Several rare, threatened and endangered species are protected on 
the
Center's property including Goldenseal (Hydrastis Canadensis),  Dwarf 
Ginseng (Panax Trifolius),  Roundleaf Serviceberry (Amelanchier 
Sanguinea), Torrey's Mountain-Mint (Pycnanthemum Torrei), Northern Flying 
Squirrel (Glaucomys Sabrinus),  Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter Cooperii),  
Northern Saw-Whet Owl, (Aegolius Acadicus),  and others.

o       The Center also protects wildlife travel corridors that represent
critical habitat for the Southern Appalachian Black Bear, a "Species of
Special Concern" as noted by the North Carolina Museum of Natural History.

o       The American Chestnut Restoration Project tries to reestablish one
of the most dominant mast-producing trees of the mountains through
planting, propagating, and distribution of trees and technical 
information to
landowners.

o       The Center's Permaculture Design program includes sustainable
agriculture, rainbow trout aquaculture, organic gardening, integrated 
fruit
and nut tree orchards, several varieties of berries, bees, and solar
greenhouse
horticulture.

o       Demonstrations of appropriate technology at the Center include 
several
different designs for composting of organics, a Finnish Contra-flow 
Masonry
Wood Heater, passive solar structures, domestic solar and wood-fired hot
water heaters, solar composting toilets, attached greenhouses, and a 4
kilowatt high-head, micro hydropower system.  Technical information and
consulting on design and installation of these systems are offered through
workshops, seminars, and conferences.

        The Center is open to the public and encourages visits from school
groups and the general public.  Please call 704/683-3662 to arrange a
visit.
For more information contact: Paul Gallimore, Director
Long Branch Environmental Education Center,
POB 369
Leicester, NC 28748
FAX 704/683-9211
Web Page: http://main.nc.us/LBEEC/

Dear Friends and Advocates for Land Conservation in the Mountains:

         Here are some ideas that you or others may want to use in letters
to the Asheville Citizen Times, Mountain Xpress, WNCW, WCQS, or the
Buncombe or Haywood County Commissioners.

        The county's Board of Equalization and Review is appointed by the
Buncombe County Commissioners, and seems to be heavily stacked with
pro-development interests, with no representation from the non-profit
sector, conservation organizations, environmental scientists, or 
educators.
It may come as no surprise then that they have expressed no interest
whatsoever in  conservation biology or ecological restoration work that
many believe should be the cornerstone of a coherent land conservation
policy in the mountains.

        The role of Heritage Tourism has become more prominent recently in
Western North Carolina, and many argue that, beyond tobacco, cattle, and
pulp mill pollution, this will become the main draw in the future for our
regional economy.  So let's not forget our Natural Heritage.

        So it would seem that protecting greenspace, mountain ridges, and
giving visitors and eco-tourists alike a chance to explore natural areas
free from traffic congestion, concessionaires, trailer parks, and service
station malls would be an added incentive to encourage a quality
experience, to get them to encourage friends and families to visit, and
even to return themselves to explore the region in the future in a more
naturally intimate way.

        How many visitors would want to drive through mountain 
subdivisions
on their way to a landfill, or how many would be rather frustrated to find
gated communities at the end of every scenic drive?  How about one long
meandering strip mall along the edge of the Blue Ridge Parkway?  Babylon
comes to the mountains....

        Citizens who would like to see more of a conservation focus in the
county may wish to contact Commissioners Bill Stanley, Patsy Keever, David
Gantt, and David Young  at 60 Court Plaza, POB 3565 Asheville, NC 28801, 
or
call them at 255-5536.  County Commission Chairperson Tom Sobol can be
reached at 255-5533.

        Ask them why can't the tax board reflect a wider diversity of
conservation, education , and environmental interests in the community?
        Why can't local governments  work to actively encourage greenspace
protection and land  conservation instead of punishing non-profits who are
doing this work without government subsidy?

***************************************************************************
****************

A Profile of
Long Branch Environmental Education Center, Inc.
P.O. Box 369, Big Sandy Mush Creek, Leicester, NC  28748  (704) 683-3662,
FAX: 683-9211

The Long Branch Environmental Education Center, Inc. is a small 
educational
institute in Buncombe County's Newfound Mountains, about 18 miles 
northwest of Asheville, North  Carolina.  Set aside in 1974 as an 
ecological
sanctuary and land trust, it has developed into an educational center for
sharing positive strategies of local self-reliance in the areas of
environmental design, organic food production, renewable energy, shelter
design and construction, appropriate technology, resource conservation,
recycling, wildlife protection,  and improved environmental quality.

The Land itself is 1635 acres of rugged wilderness and farmland ranging in
elevation from 3,000 to 5,152 feet.  Over sixteen hundred acres are mostly
eastern hardwood forest, bisected with several mountain springs and 
streams where rare and endangered native plant species are conserved.  
Twenty-five acres are managed in a Permaculture design of small scale 
organic gardens, crops, orchards, vineyards, and rainbow trout 
aquaculture in an integrated edible landscape.

STRUCTURES ON THE LAND include three passive solar staff residences with
three attached solar greenhouses, three composting toilets, one passive
solar conference center, a traditional 1917 farm house with a
state-of-the-art energy conservation retrofit, an old tobacco barn
converted into a rustic dormitory, and miscellaneous outbuildings,
including a secluded retreat shelter.

OBJECTIVES of the Center are:
        1) Conservation -- promoting the stewardship of natural resources
within the Southern Appalachian bioregion including its land, wilderness,
topsoil, plant and animal species, air      and water quality, and all
genetic resources;
        2) Research -- experimenting with strategies of environmental
design and Permaculture, organic farming and orcharding, aquaculture,
passive solar shelter design, attached solar greenhouse construction and
horticultural use,domestic solar water heating, micro-hydropower systems,
recycling, composting, and waste utilization, and compost toilet systems;
        3) Education -- sharing these strategies with the public through
demonstration programs, conferences, seminars and workshops in order to
promote self-reliance, appropriate technology, and environmental 
integrity.

PROGRAMS  revolve around sharing Long Branch -- the place, the people and 
their skills -- with youngsters and adults from the general public.  Long
Branch is open to the public daily; general visitors come to hike the
trails, birdwatch, visit the demonstration passive solar residences and
greenhouses, and to observe (and often participate in) whatever is going 
on
at the moment, whether it is gardening, building, or a migratory bird
census.
        Each spring through fall a series of weekend workshops and longer
programs are held, on topics ranging from organic gardening, fruit and nut
tree grafting, wilderness survival skills, environmental design and edible
landscaping, citizen environmental action, Appalachian geology,
aquaculture, beekeeping, small animal husbandry, recycling and waste
utilization, solar  food drying and preservation, masonry wood stove
construction, solar greenhouse and low-cost solar hot water system design
and use, to micro-hydropower.  Throughout the year, day-long visits by
school and college classes are welcomed.  An internship program is also
offered year-round.
        Long Branch staff are involved with speaking in the greater
Southern Appalachian area on topics ranging from environmental action to
resource conservation to alternative energy, and cooperating with other
groups and organizations to futher public awareness and understanding of
the need for resource conservation, renewable energy and environmental
integrity.
MEANS OF SUPPORT for all programs include private donations, seminar and
workshop fees, small grants, and consulting services.  Long Branch is a
private, non-profit educational organization with 501(c)(3) tax-exempt,
tax-deductible status.
E-mail: paulg at buncombe.main.nc.us
Tel. 704/683-3662       Fax: 704/683-9211
Web Site: http://main.nc.us/LBEEC/



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