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What Does Perpetuity Look Like?

September 11, 2013 | Land Trust Alliance | Washington, D.C.

Conservation easements intend to protect land forever. But sometimes conditions change, time reveals mistakes in drafting, or problems arise with new landowners, which may require an amendment. All amendments involve a degree of risk, so proceed with caution and get professional advice. The Alliance helps land trusts make the best possible decisions when evaluating potential easement amendments.

  • Our go-to resource remains the 2007 Research Report, Amending Conservation Easements: Evolving Practices and Legal Principles. This report presents an analysis of months of dialogue among leading attorneys, practitioners and academics on the issues of how, when and if conservation easements should be amended and provides helpful “risk spectrums” to ensure land trusts are appropriately analyzing all aspects of a potential amendment and its implications. You can download the report for free from our publications page »
  • Rally 2013: The National Land Conservation Conference in New Orleans, September 17-19, will feature several sessions on the topic, including:
    • Seminar 2. The ABC’s of Conservation Stewardship: Amendments, Baselines and Comprehensive Monitoring. Tuesday, September 17, 8:30am-4:30pm
    • Workshop B07. Introduction to Conservation Easement Amendments: Responding to the Dilemma of Change. Wednesday, September 18, 1:30-3:30pm
    • Workshop B16. Amendment, Modification and Termination of Conservation Easements. Wednesday, September 18, 1:30-3:30pm
    • Workshop C11. Making the Best Difficult Decision in Uncertainty. Wednesday, September 18, 3:30-5:00pm
    • Workshop D09. Across the Swamp and Into the Mud: Discretionary Approvals and Private Benefit.  Thursday, September 19, 8:30-10:00am
    • Featured Session FS09a. Ask the Experts – Conservation Easement Amendments: Analyzing Risks and Assessing Choices. Thursday, September 19, 1:30-3:30pm
    • Featured Session FS09b. States’ Approaches to Perpetual Conservation Easement Amendment and Termination.  Thursday, September 19, 3:30-5:00pm
  • In late June, the Land Trust Alliance convened the meeting “Finding Common Ground on Easement Modification and Termination in Denver, Colorado. The meeting brought together 14 highly experienced attorneys and land trust practitioners to discuss the controversial issues associated with easement modification and termination. While many issues remain unresolved, the meeting began the process of building a community of people committed to respectful debate on easement amendments and reaffirmed the value of the 2007 Amendment Report. Read the executive summary »
  • Over the past year, the Land Trust Alliance hosted several one-hour conference calls on conservation easement amendments in different regions of the country. More conference calls and workshops are planned for 2014. Let us know if you would like to host a call or include an “Ask the Expert” workshop at a state or regional conference.
  • The Fourth Symposium on Advanced Legal Topics in Land Conservation, February 5-6, 2014 in Reno, Nevada, features an intensive six-hour practical examination of land trust risk assessment, focusing on problem-solving the challenges of conservation easement modification for conservation attorneys and senior land trust personnel.  Up to 11 CLE credits are available.
  • The Winter issue of Saving Land will feature an article discussing some of the legal considerations of conservation easement amendments:  the charitable trust doctrine and conservation easements as property interests.

For more resources and materials on easement amendment, modification and termination, see our collection on The Learning Center.

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Support from land trusts

Christian Freitag, attorney-at-law and executive director at Sycamore Land Trust (IN), says "I view Conservation Defense Insurance as another step the land trust community is taking to keep our promises. We claim that we will help people protect their land in perpetuity. With this program, the public can be more confident than ever that we take that commitment seriously."

 

Greg Gamble, executive director at Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (CA), says that "this is one of the most helpful things that the Land Trust Alliance could attempt for its members, and I have greatly appreciated the professional, thoughtful, fair and inclusive process that you have led."

 

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