On February 16th, Senator DiPalma introduced Bill S0418, otherwise known as the “liberal interpretation” bill. This bill, which would require conservation and preservation restrictions to be liberally interpreted in favor of the grants awarded, is a priority for the RI Land Trust Council. The bill would amend Rhode Island’s enabling legislation for conservation restrictions (also called conservation easements) so that the legislative intent — that conservation restrictions are for the public benefit — is made clear. Clarifying the enabling legislation will provide courts with a clear basis to uphold the conservation purposes of an easement, if there is ever a dispute about its meaning. Currently, judges may apply common law in any legal dispute over conservation restrictions, which favors the property owner instead of honoring the original intent of the conservation restriction — to protect land in perpetuity. This legislation defends the millions of dollars that the state, federal government, municipalities, individuals, and non-profit organizations have invested and are investing to protect land with conservation easements for the public benefit.
Co-sponsors in the Senate include Senators Sosnowski, Burke, McKenney, and F. Lombardi, and Representative Craven is expected to introduce it on the House side very shortly. To stay up to date on the current status of Bill S0418, check out our new Bill Tracker. To receive information on how you can support the progress of this bill, join our Google Group.