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The following is third of eight samples taken from the book.  It is page 37 chapter of section 2:

A Trust is for the Beneficiaries
and a Refuge is for the Birds

When I was in college I worked a summer job at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (SNWR), just south of the little farm town of Willows, CA. Each year, millions of migratory birds travel the Pacific Flyway and more than half of them use the SNWR as a feeding and rest stop. In the fall, there are so many birds it looks like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds5 which, according to my coworkers, it was. They claim that in 1962 they helped a “Hollywood” film crew shoot scenes of thousands of excited birds by setting off duck bombs in fields full of ducks and geese. I was never able to verify their claim, so it may have been a “rural legend.” (Our town wasn’t large enough to qualify for urban legends.)  

Working at the refuge was a great summer job. I did all kinds of odd jobs, but my biggest tasks were replacing fencing and putting in sign posts. Over a couple of summers we replaced about 20 miles of fencing. My best guess is that I personally installed 5,000 metal t-posts, 250 wooden fence posts, and 200 sign posts. However, those numbers could be wrong. As the t-shirt I received from my kids keeps reminding me, “The older I get the better I was.”  

The fence I worked on circled the outer edge of the refuge. Inside this perimeter we grew rice and maintained wetlands for the benefit of migratory birds and other animals that used the refuge. This was consistent with the mission of the Wildlife Service which is “…to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats.” To fulfill this mission, the Wildlife Service acquires refuge land under legislative laws, executive orders, or other means. The purpose of each refuge is determined based upon “…the law, proclamation, executive order, agreement, public land order, donation document, or administrative memorandum establishing, authorizing, or expanding a refuge…” For example, the SNWR was created by Executive Order in 1937 with the stated purpose that it was to be used “…as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.”  

A refuge is very similar to a trust. According to Black’s Law Dictionary, a trust “…is a property interest held by one person (the trustee) at the request of another (the settlor) for the benefit of a third party (the beneficiary).”6 In the SNWR’s case, the property is held by the Wildlife Service at the request of the President for the benefit of the birds. Just as the executive order set out the purpose of the refuge and the conditions under which it was to be managed, so does a trust document describe the purposes and conditions under which trust assets are to be managed. The settlor (creator) of a trust has the freedom to set the rules for how the trust assets are to be managed and who the assets are going to benefit. The duty of the trustee is similar to the duty of the refuge manager in that they are both responsible for making sure the creator’s wishes, as set forth in the trust document, are carried out in the best interests of the beneficiaries. Where the gift documents are silent or vague, the refuge manager relies on the Wildlife Service’s regulations and the trustee relies on the Uniform Prudent Investor Act (“Act”).  

If the trust document is in conflict with the Uniform Prudent Investor Act, the trust trumps the Act because, as the Act notes, its requirements are default rules -- that is, “rules that the settlor may alter or abrogate.” The situation is similar for fiduciaries of charities but not for pension plans, since the minimum standards of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) cannot be altered. Nevertheless, fiduciaries of private trusts, charities, and pension plans all need to be familiar with both the controlling documents as well as the applicable laws in order to prudently perform their duties. Like the wildlife refuge manager, fiduciaries need to know the conditions and follow the rules if the purpose of the trust, charity, pension (or refuge) is going to be realized for the beneficiary, donee, employee, (or bird).