Vt. Land Trust Retreats On Bill To Allow Easement Changes

Mar 16, 2014

The Vermont Land Trust has withdrawn support from legislation it was backing that would allow conservation easements to be altered or lifted after a legal review.

The move Friday followed criticism by others in the conservation community that the bill opened the possibility that a donor’s intent to preserve a particular piece of land would not be fulfilled.

In a statement, VLT President Gil Livingston said the organization had been reminded in recent weeks “how much our members care about the land we have protected and believe in the permanence of our easements.”

The bill, S. 119, had sparked significant opposition from experts who said legal avenues already exist to amend easements. They also had warned that conservation-minded people would be dissuaded from donating easements if they were not fully assured that their land would be protected in perpetuity.

“We now agree that the current bill is too broad, so we are working on changes that would greatly reduce its scope,” Livingston said. “We hope to share our suggestions in the next few weeks.”

He added: “You have my commitment that VLT will not continue to support S. 119 in its current form.”

Vermont Law School Professor John Echeverria opposed the bill. He said in an email that he was pleased at Vermont Land Trust’s retreat.

“It is wonderful that VLT is listening to its members and has abandoned its support for S. 119, which VLT took the lead in drafting and advocating in the Legislature,” Echeverria said. “But when the Legislature turns back to the easement issue next year one can only hope, in light of VLT’s track record on this issue, that the Legislature will look beyond VLT for good ideas and advice.”