Real Estate Slump Good for Conservationists

The mortgage crisis and real estate slump are affecting just about everyone these days, but some conservationists are not complaining.

According to the British real estate Web site Property Wire, environmental and preservation groups in the United States are landing great deals on properties with scenic and historic value.

The site quoted Keith Fountain, director of land acquisition for the Nature Conservancy’s Florida chapter, as saying: “Just a few years ago conservationists couldn’t compete. It was very tough to buy anything. Now it exceeds anything I’ve seen in my 16 years with the conservancy.”

Still, conservationists are a long way from getting every property they want.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2008 list of the most endangered historic places in the United States lists such monumental structures as a 200-foot-tall NASA dirigible hangar in California, a theater in Philadelphia and a hotel in Dallas, but it also lists entire neighborhoods, such as New York City’s Lower East Side and New Orleans’ Charity Hospital area.

Perhaps most strikingly, it lists the entire California State Park system, which has suffered from severe budget cuts.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported on one endangered site, the Upper Post of Fort Snelling, a pioneer trading post and staging ground for U.S. attacks against Plains Indians.

While Fort Snelling has been preserved by the state’s historical society, the Upper Post has languished in bureaucratic confusion and neglect.

Recently, the post’s 19th century quartermaster building was declared unfit for renovation.

The paper quote Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin as saying: “This is a great treasure. The conditions of the buildings are unacceptable. We need to find a way to sustainably redevelop the site.”

–Will Crain/


“Not too late for a crumbling fort”
Star-Tribune, July 29, 2008

“2008 List of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places Announced”, July 29, 2008

“U.S. property downturn is good news for conservationists” (U.K.), July 29, 2008

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