121-39.1. Termination or modification of agreements.

(a) Easements secured by the Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund, including perpetual agricultural conservation easements and forest land easements, military base protection and flyway easements regardless of funding source, or any other agricultural conservation easement that has been secured, in whole or in part, with federal funds and where at least one party to the agreement is a public body of this State, shall not be terminated or modified for the purpose of economic development.

(b) Prior to any modification or termination of a conservation agreement where at least one party to the agreement is a public body of this State, the agency requesting the conservation agreement modification or termination shall conduct a conservation benefit analysis. The criteria for the conservation benefit analysis shall be established by the agency requesting the conservation agreement modification or termination. Conservation agreements may only be modified or terminated if the conservation benefit analysis concludes that the modification or termination results in a greater benefit to conservation purposes consistent with this Article.

(c) The conservation benefit analysis conducted by the requesting agency shall be reported to the Council of State prior to the vote of the Council of State on the final decision to modify the agreement.

(d) Notwithstanding any authority given to a public body of this State, including the State, any of its agencies, any city, county, district or other political subdivision, municipal or public corporation, or any instrumentality of any of the foregoing, to release or terminate conservation easements under other law, this section shall apply to conservation agreements that are intended to be effective perpetually or that are terminated or modified prior to the period of time stipulated in the agreement, and where at least one party to the agreement is a public body of this State, including the State, any of its agencies, any city, county, district or other political subdivision, municipal or public corporation, or any instrumentality of any of the foregoing.

(e) Parties to a conservation agreement may include a provision at the time an agreement is executed requiring the consent of the grantor or the grantor's successors in interest to terminate or modify the agreement for any purpose.

(f) Any agency managing a conservation agreement program may adopt rules governing its procedure for termination or modification of a conservation agreement, provided that any such rules may be no less stringent than the requirements of this section.

(g) This section shall not apply to a condemnation action initiated by a condemnor governed by Article 6 of Chapter 40A of the General Statutes or to a voluntary termination or modification affecting no more than the lesser of two percent (2%) or one acre of the total easement area of the conservation agreement when requested by a public utility, the Department of Transportation, or a government entity having eminent domain authority under Article 3 of Chapter 40A of the General Statutes. (2015-263, s. 13(a); 2017-108, s. 14.)