Condemning Conservation Easements: Protecting the Public Interest and Investment in Conservation
71 Pages Posted: 25 May 2008
The public is investing substantial financial and other resources in conservation easements and the conservation and historic values they protect. Yet little has been written about who should be entitled to what when land encumbered by a conservation easement is condemned in whole or in part. This Article explores these issues. It first demonstrates that conservation easements should constitute a compensable form of property for purposes of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Then, using well-settled eminent domain valuation principles, it describes how just compensation should be calculated and apportioned between the holder of a conservation easement and the owner of the encumbered land upon the taking of all or any portion of the encumbered land. The Article explains that paying the economic value attributable to a conservation easement upon its condemnation to the owner of the encumbered land would confer an undue windfall benefit on the owner at the public's expense. The Article also explains that allowing condemning authorities to take easement-encumbered land without paying for the easement would have the perverse and counterproductive effect of making land protected for its conservation or historic values cheaper to condemn than similar unprotected land.
Keywords: conservation easement, condemnation, eminent domain, valuation, appraisal, takings clause, just compensation
JEL Classification: K11, K32, Q15, Q24
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation