The last few decades have seen a growing awareness of environmental concerns in the U.S. and throughout the world. While there have been many responses to this, such as increased recycling and use of alternative energy sources, one popular trend has seen landowners put some of their property under perpetual conservation easements.
These are meant to preserve the protected land in the state of nature it was in at the time the easement is created.
However, this can create issues for those who inherit land under a conservation easement. As the land cannot be used for development, it lowers the value at which it can be sold. Both heirs and other later owners of the property are often interested in adjusting the easements so the property can be developed.
The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog recently wrote about an attempt to fix this problem in Vermont in "Debate Arises In Vermont Over Allowing Adjustments To Conservation Easements."
The proposal discussed in the article would have allowed the state government of Vermont to make adjustments to conservation easements that furthered the overall goal of conservation. This particular proposal did not get very far as opponents were concerned it would give the government free reign to disregard the wishes of property owners who originally put the land in easements.
As there are approximately 40 million acres of land in the country under conservation easements, this issue is likely to continue to be a controversial one for many years to come. The ultimate question is whether a current property owner should have the right to determine how later owners can use the land in perpetuity.
It is not an easy question to answer.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (Dec. 14, 2015) "Debate Arises In Vermont Over Allowing Adjustments To Conservation Easements."