United States v. White Mountain Apache Tribe, 537 U.S. 465, 11 (2003)

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Cite as: 537 U. S. 465 (2003)

Opinion of the Court

States in trust for the White Mountain Apache Tribe." 74 Stat. 8. Unlike the Allotment Act, however, the statute proceeds to invest the United States with discretionary authority to make direct use of portions of the trust corpus. The trust property is "subject to the right of the Secretary of the Interior to use any part of the land and improvements for administrative or school purposes for as long as they are needed for the purpose," ibid., and it is undisputed that the Government has to this day availed itself of its option. As to the property subject to the Government's actual use, then, the United States has not merely exercised daily supervision but has enjoyed daily occupation, and so has obtained control at least as plenary as its authority over the timber in Mitchell II. While it is true that the 1960 Act does not, like the statutes cited in that case, expressly subject the Government to duties of management and conservation, the fact that the property occupied by the United States is expressly subject to a trust supports a fair inference that an obligation to preserve the property improvements was incumbent on the United States as trustee. This is so because elementary trust law, after all, confirms the commonsense assumption that a fiduciary actually administering trust property may not allow it to fall into ruin on his watch. "One of the fundamental common-law duties of a trustee is to preserve and maintain trust assets," Central States, Southeast & Southwest Areas Pension Fund v. Central Transport, Inc., 472 U. S. 559, 572 (1985) (citing G. Bogert & G. Bogert, Law of Trusts and Trustees 582, p. 346 (rev. 2d ed. 1980)); see United States v. Mason, 412 U. S. 391, 398 (1973) (standard of responsibility is "such care and skill as a man of ordinary prudence would exercise in dealing with his own property" (quoting 2 A. Scott, Trusts 1408 (3d ed. 1967) (internal quotation marks omitted))); Restatement (Second) of Trusts 176 (1957) ("The trustee is under a duty to the beneficiary to use reasonable care and skill to preserve the trust property"). Given this duty on the part of the trustee to preserve corpus,


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