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Ask the Conservationist

Real Estate Agents—Friend or Foe to Nature?

We receive plenty of emails from readers wanting us to help them protect special parcels of land near where they live, but we don’t often receive inquiries from real estate professionals who want to help keep nature intact.

One reader from Mississippi writes in asking how she can help save important wetlands while helping her real estate clients at the same time.

See what our Conservancy staffer has to say. And when you're done reading, send us your questions on any conservation subject for one of the Conservancy's 720 staff scientists. (Note: We regret that we can only answer one or two questions each month and that we cannot answer the others offline.)

Esther Manieri of St. Louis, MS, asks:

“I am a real estate professional in Hancock County, Mississippi, and represent several parcels of wetlands for sale. How can I sell them to keep them as wetlands? For the past 17 years in my profession I see wetlands sold, filled and ruined on a regular basis. How can I help the environment while helping my clients at the same time?"

Mike J. Murphy:

The Nature Conservancy works independently and with several public partners to preserve the important coastal wetlands in South Mississippi, and Hancock County is an area of particular interest to us for its coastal marshes.

Southern Mississippi's coastal marshes are nursery areas for saltwater species such as crab, shrimp and many sport and food fish, as well as waterfowl. They are also valuable recreational lands — prime areas for fishing, hunting, nature observation and photography. Perhaps most importantly, these coastal marshes act as a buffer against hurricanes and tropical storms. Intact coastal marsh areas dampen the force of damaging weather, preserving human life and valuable structures.

While we cannot help protect every property that come to our attention, we would be happy to speak to you and your clients at any time about potential conservation lands. Here's how we work:

  • Our basic approach is to first ascertain that the property is one that helps meet our conservation goals. The Nature Conservancy prefers to work on a large scale, preserving landscape-sized tracts of important wildlife habitat.
  • If it does, we will request permission to appraise the property. The appraisal will be at our expense and does not obligate either the seller or the buyer. When the appraisal is complete, we will make an offer based on that appraisal. At this point, it is a typical willing buyer/willing seller relationship.
  • If an agreement is reached, The Nature Conservancy will take the steps necessary to complete the acquisition. Usually, all legal work, titles and environmental assessments are paid for by The Nature Conservancy. There are also ways in which a landowner may donate all or part of the value of the land in return for tax considerations.
  • If a property does not meet our conservation goals, it still may be important to preserve. We will be happy to refer you to sister organizations that can assist with preservation of smaller tracts.

Any interested landowners or agents in Hancock County can call The Nature Conservancy's South Mississippi office at 228-872-8452.

About the Conservationist

Mike J. Murphy, a Nature Conservancy Field Representative

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