PEC and Conservation Easements Don’t Mix

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Mark Fitzgibbons | Fauquier Free Citizen

Piedmont Environmental CouncilPerhaps the Piedmont Environmental Council has learned that being foolishly stubborn isn’t always a good public relations strategy.

Instead of cutting its losses with an apology, the PEC has attempted to deflect the story of how it has abused its conservation easement at Martha Boneta’s Liberty Farm, claiming she bought the property knowing about the easement.

That “she-had-it-coming” approach did not work. It never does when speaking of victims.
Indeed, as more facts came out about the PEC’s dishonesty and its collusion with some Fauquier County government officials, blaming their victim has made PEC look like horrible, dishonest people.

The latest installment by journalist Kevin Mooney at The Daily Signal (“Virginia Farmer Hopes to Get Conservation Group Off Her Back”) pretty much wraps a holiday ribbon around PEC’s vanished credibility.

Mooney picks up his reporting of the Boneta/PEC saga following a recent hearing before the Virginia Outdoors Federation. The VOF, a co-holder of the easement at Liberty Farm, is the Dr. Jekyll to the PEC’s Mr. Hyde, showing sanity and sense contrasted to the PEC’s monster-like behavior.

As reported, one “former director of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation said the [PEC]’s enforcement tactics jeopardized the very notion of easements in Virginia.”

Ouch. That also pretty much ruins the PEC’s line that this story is merely being pushed by “right-wing blogs.” (But we thank the PEC’s Chris Miller for crediting FFC for helping make Martha Boneta a national hero, even in his ideological and back-handed way.)

Mooney’s piece at The Daily Signal (read here) reveals emails and other evidence that contradicts the PEC’s protestations, showing that the green group has many demons in its closets (unlike the water heater in Martha Boneta’s closet about which the PEC complained).

Mooney’s latest is so filled with facts humiliating to the PEC that it didn’t have room to go into detail about one that I consider the most damaging to the PEC’s chances of holding conservation easements hereafter.

At the VOF hearing, the PEC’s lawyers claimed that the lawyer/former judge PEC inspector lied to Martha Boneta when he told her that he was unaware of his easement inspection parameters. This came after Boneta said it would be trespass if he exceeded his inspection authority.

Accidental trespass is a lesser offense than knowing trespass – and trespass under cover of deceit is really bad. The PEC’s lawyers seem to have thrown their inspector under the bus.
There goes that tangled web from the Bard.

The PEC still claims it is for property rights. Yeah, their rights in other people’s property.

Time for the PEC to get out of the conservation easement business.

Mark J. Fitzgibbons

About Mark J. Fitzgibbons

Mark J. Fitzgibbons is a constitutional lawyer and co-author with Richard A. Viguerie of The Law That Governs Government: Reclaiming The Constitution From Usurpers And Society's Biggest Lawbreaker.