(SD)-Wild Horse Sanctuary Loses Conservation Easement Appeal
HOT SPRINGS, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota Supreme Court has rejected an attempt by the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary between Hot Springs and Edgemont to void a 1998 conservation easement that limits use of thousands of acres land
The Institute of Range and the American Mustang, the non-profit operators of the sanctuary, sued the Nature Conservancy in 2016 alleging it was fraudulently induced into granting the easement to the Conservancy, a global nonprofit with an office in Rapid City, in exchange for $230,000 used to pay off a mortgage.
The easement covers about 8,300 acres of land and prohibits certain uses to ensure it will remain in a mostly natural and undeveloped state. It also grants The Nature Conservancy a 50% share of the proceeds if a change in conditions ever causes the easement to be extinguished and the land sold.
A circuit court judge rejected the suit and the Supreme Court concurred. An opinion written by Chief Justice David Gilbertson identified three main claims in the sanctuary’s lawsuit and rejected all of them.
The sanctuary claimed fraud, but the Supreme Court said the failure of sanctuary founder Dayton Hyde to examine or read the easement deed was “not the action of a reasonable prudent person” and that his failure to determine the content of the deed “must be described as negligence.”
Claims that Hyde entered into the transaction without corporate authority, there was a failure of consideration, and there was no meeting of the minds concerning the easement terms granting a property interest to The Nature Conservancy were rejected for a lack of supporting evidence.
The court also found South Dakota's 6-year statute of limitations prevented the sanctuary from suing in 2016 that it had been defrauded in 1998.
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