Mar 5, 2014 The Associated Press

UW wins ranchland lawsuit

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled against a Denver woman who sued to block foundations at the University of Wyoming and Colorado State University from selling a ranch she donated to them in the late 1990s.

Wyoming's high court unanimously upheld a district court ruling that Amy Davis lacked standing to contest plans by the University of Wyoming Foundation and Colorado State University Research Foundation to sell the Y Cross Ranch.

The justices also upheld the earlier finding that Davis' donation did not create an implied trust that could have given her room for recourse if the terms of the donation were violated. Those terms included a provision that the foundations could sell as soon as 14 years after the 1997 gift.

"It is clear from this provision that the donors did not intend to require the university foundations to hold the property in trust indefinitely as a working ranch," the justices wrote.

The more than 50,000-acre Y Cross sprawls across the high country between Cheyenne and Laramie in southeast Wyoming.

Davis envisioned that the universities would use the Y Cross as a field classroom for agriculture students, and that profits from the working ranch would fund scholarships in agriculture education. But neither happened on a significant scale.

The foundations began preparing to auction off the ranch in 2001 but suspended those plans after Davis sued in 2012.

"As far as what will happen from here, it's going to be something the foundation board will be discussing," University of Wyoming spokesman Chad Baldwin said Tuesday.

The next board meeting is scheduled for early June. Colorado State spokesman Mike Hooker said his university was "gratified" by the ruling.

The foundations still ought to reconsider their sale plans -- or at least wait several years to see if the schools can still find ways to use the Y Cross as Davis intended, said her attorney, Steve Miller.

"We believe that this will have a negative long-term impact on both institutions in terms of attracting major donors," Miller said. "This case essentially stands for the proposition that it's 'donor beware.'"

Baldwin, however, expressed doubt the ruling would influence other donors, pointing out that the courts found that the universities adhered to the specific gift terms that wouldn't apply to other donations.

Hathaway increase likely 5 percent

CHEYENNE -- An agreement reached between Senate and House members would provide a 5 percent increase in the Hathaway Scholarship award.

When Senate File 55 was originally proposed, it contained a 10 percent increase.

The Senate cut that to 5 percent, while the House stuck with the 10 percent.

However, House negotiators conceded the 5 percent on Tuesday. The Senate approved the agreement, while the House is expected to act on the agreement Wednesday.

Supporters of the higher amount say the scholarship fund can handle the 10 percent increase. However, members of the Senate questioned whether the 10 percent increase would jeopardize the fund in the long run.

The idea behind increasing the award is to keep pace with rising college tuition and fees.

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