More than 40 million acres of land in the U.S. is protected under conservation easements – legally binding agreements designed to protect private land – for example, by restricting future development in environmentally sensitive areas. Tom Langen of Clarkson University explains the motivation.

Langen: “Landowners do this because they are concerned about heritage – what their children, their neighbors, their community has available in terms of natural resources in an area. So we find that landowners tend to be concerned about the long-term environmental quality.”

Conservation easements are popular because they preserve open space, but there are also criticisms.

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For example, all future owners of a land under an easement remain legally bound by the terms of that contract. So even if current best practices suggest thinning trees would be the best way to manage a forest, the landowner would be forbidden to do so if it were prohibited by a conservation easement.

Some environmentalists suggest writing conservation easements in a way that allows the terms to be adapted to changing needs – a solution that could ensure these agreements continue to do what landowners have always intended: protect ecosystems, species, and open spaces for the future.

Prof. Tom Langen conducting a bird point count on a wetland located on a private property in the St. Lawrence Valley of New York State. Photo courtesy of Prof. Langen.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Top photo: Copyright protected.

More Resources
Wetlands For Wildlife: Understanding Drivers of Public-Private Partnership Restoration Success
Adapting Private Land Conservation to Climate and Landscape Change
Conservation Easements and Climate Change
Can Private Land Conservation Efforts Adapt to Climate Change?
All About Conservation Easements

Bridgett Ennis

Bridgett Ennis is co-founder of ChavoBart Digital Media (CBDM), an audio and video production firm with a focus on scientific and environmental media. CBDM contributes original reporting, audio production,...