The Invisible Forest: Conservation Easement Databases and the End of the Clandestine Conservation of Natural Lands

32 Pages Posted: 10 Oct 2010 Last revised: 28 Feb 2015

James L. Olmsted

OlmstedLAW

Date Written: May 27, 2011

Abstract

This article explains the history and features of the National Conservation Easement Database (NCED) that is poised to become operational and available online after May 31, 2011. By way of background, this article addresses the current lack of record keeping regarding the existence and location of conservation easements in the United States. It is estimated that only two states have any form of mandatory recording or record keeping, and governmental recording offices and title companies have no independent means of tracking conservation easements. While several arguments can be made for keeping the existence and location of conservation easements confidential, more powerful arguments can be made for requiring that they be recorded and tracked in a publicly available database. Such a mandatory recording system would promote monitoring and record keeping for factors such as weather and climate changes, species populations and migrations, biodiversity, carbon sequestration capacity and many others. A public database would also prevent the creation of "orphan" conservation easements resulting from the termination or dissolution of the nonprofit easement holders which cannot be expected to exist in perpetuity which is the time-span for most of the conservation easements in the United States.

Suggested Citation

Olmsted, James L., The Invisible Forest: Conservation Easement Databases and the End of the Clandestine Conservation of Natural Lands (May 27, 2011). Duke Journal of Law & Contemporary Problems, Vol. 74, No. 4, p. 51, 2011 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1690007

James L. Olmsted (Contact Author)

OlmstedLAW ( email )

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