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Perpetuity is Forever, Almost Always - Why it is Wrong to Promote Amendment and Termination of Perpetual Conservation Easements


This article is a response to Jessica Jay's, When Perpetual Is Not Forever: The Challenge of Changing Conditions, Amendment and Termination of Conservation Easements, 36 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 1 (2012). When Perpetual Is Not Forever suggests that government entities and land trusts accepting conservation easement donations are free to ignore both federal tax law requirements and the rules that govern administration of charities and the charitable gifts they solicit and accept when amending and terminating perpetual conservation easements. This article explains that, when a conservation easement donor makes a charitable gift of a conservation easement and elects to seek a federal income tax deduction, both the property owner and easement holder become subject to federal law governing the creation, monitoring, amendment, and extinguishment of the easement, as well as state laws that protect charitable gifts on behalf of the public. Accordingly, contrary to the representations made in When Perpetual Is Not Forever, neither property owners nor holders can elect to amend or terminate such perpetual easements pursuant to procedures that are inconsistent with such laws.

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