The public is investing billions of dollars in conservation easements, which now protect more than 40 million acres throughout the United States. But uncertainties in the law and abusive practices threaten to undermine public confidence in and the effectiveness of these instruments as land protection tools. Professor Nancy A. McLaughlin organized a conference at the College of Law on February 15, 2013, entitled Perpetual Conservation Easements, What Have We Learned and Where Should We Go From Here? The conference brought together leading academics in the tax, real property law, and nonprofit governance areas, federal and state regulators, and land trust professionals to explore the challenges and complexities associated with protecting private lands “in perpetuity” with conservation easements. Topics explored included proposed reforms to state conservation easement enabling statutes and the federal tax incentives offered to conservation easement donors, as well as the appropriate level of federal and state oversight of entities administering conservation easements on behalf of the public. Professor McLaughlin noted that “it was refreshing and inspiring to see a group of highly talented and diverse scholars, public servants, and nonprofit professionals come together to discuss the successes and challenges associated with the now widespread use of this unique land protection tool.”
The conference was streamed live and was viewed by individuals around the nation, and eight of the speakers are publishing articles in the Utah Law Review associated with their presentations. The articles will address topics ranging from the unintended consequences of the use of real property law nomenclature (i.e., the term “easement”) to describe what can be a hybrid of tax, charitable, and real property law, to the extraordinary history of and difficulties associated with administering a private land protection program through the federal tax code.
View the Conservation Easements archive online »