Conservation Easements: Perpetuity and Beyond

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Perpetual conservation easements are intended to protect the particular land they encumber for the conservation purposes specified in the deed of conveyance “in perpetuity”—or at least until circumstances have changed so profoundly that continued protection of the land for those purposes is no longer feasible. To protect the public interest and investment in perpetual conservation easements, and, at the same time, permit adjustments to be made to respond to changing conditions, such easements should be treated like any other form of charitable asset acquired by a government or charitable entity for a particular charitable purpose—i.e., as subject to equitable charitable trust principles. This issue to date. This Article cautions that perpetual land protection is not appropriate in all circumstances and recommends a more considered use of perpetual conservation easements as a land protection tool. This Article also explores the possible use of a number of nonperpetual conservation easements to accomplish land protection goals. Article outlines the considerable support for applying charitable trust principles to perpetual conservation easements, including uniform laws, the Restatement of Property, federal tax law, and case activity on this issue to date. This Article cautions that perpetual land protection is not appropriate in all circumstances and recommends a more considered use of perpetual conservation easements as a land protection tool. This Article also explores the possible use of a number of nonperpetual conservation easements to accomplish land protection goals.

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