The Nature Conservancy, Inc. v. Sims

In 2001, the Conservancy sold a 100.10 acre farm in Garrard County, Kentucky to the Sims for $60,084, in addition to a $244,939 charitable pledge from the Sims to the Conservancy. The property appraised at $260,400 without the easement at issue, which requires that the land "be retained forever substantially undisturbed in its natural condition and to prevent any use . . . that will significantly impair or interfere with the Conservation Values of the Protected Property." The Conservancy received an annual right to enter and inspect the property. In January 2005, the Conservancy inspected and documented several violations that concerned excavating and filling a sinkhole. The Sims corrected several other violations. The district court granted summary judgment to the Conservancy, concluding that, although the easement allowed some changes to the topography in conjunction with authorized activities, like plowing for commercial agriculture, the easement specifically prohibited the substantial alteration of filling in a sinkhole with an estimated 6,269 cubic yards of fill. The court awarded the Conservancy $99,796.41 in attorneys’ fees and expenses. The Sixth Circuit affirmed.