Topeka A bill that would limit conservation easements, which have been used to preserve lands in the Flint Hills and elsewhere, was approved by a Senate committee Friday.
Senate Bill 323 is being sought by a handful of landowners and a tea party group, but is opposed by many other landowners, the Governor's Military Council, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Under a conservation easement, owners donate land with restrictions in place that would prohibit development on the land for perpetuity.
Conservation groups have used the easements to preserve land in its natural state.
But some say the easements, which last forever, limit economic development and future opportunities and negatively impact those who own land abutting the easements.
The bill would limit the duration of a conservation easement so that it ends with the death of the grantor.
"This bill deals with taking away the perpetuity," said state Sen. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha. "When you put perpetuity in there, you limit the use of that land for the future."
But state Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said the use of conservation easements is an important tool that protects Kansas military bases from federal base closure considerations.
Military bases in Kansas have used a program to acquire permanent conservation easements to prevent encroachment on their facilities.
"Passage of SB 323 puts our military installations needlessly at risk by eliminating the military's best option for sustaining the capabilities of our nation's installations through mutually beneficial partnerships with its neighboring landowners," John Armbrust, executive director of the Governor's Military Council, said in earlier testimony.
The Senate Natural Resources Committee approved the measure on a voice vote.
Two Democrats, Hawk and state Sen. Marci Francisco, of Lawrence, and two Republicans, sens. Carolyn McGinn, of Sedgwick, and Dan Kerschen, of Golden Plain, opposed the bill.