Conservation Easements, and The Charitable Trust Doctrine - Setting the Record Straight
By: Nancy McLaughlin
and W. William Weeks
This is the fourth in an exchange of articles published by the Wyoming Law Review discussing the application of charitable trust principles to conservation easements conveyed as charitable gifts. In 2002, Johnson County, Wyoming, attempted to terminate a perpetual conservation easement that had been conveyed to the County as a tax-deductible charitable gift. The County’s actions were challenged, first in a suit brought by a resident of the County, Hicks v. Dowd, and then in a suit brought by the Wyoming Attorney General, Salzburg v. Dowd. This article supports the position taken by the Wyoming Attorney General – that conservation easements conveyed as charitable gifts for the purpose of protecting the conservation values of the land they encumber in perpetuity constitute restricted charitable gifts or charitable trusts and, thus, such easements cannot be terminated without court approval obtained in a cy pres or similar equitable proceeding.
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