Trends in Private Land Conservation: Increasing Complexity, Shifting Conservation Purposes and Allowable Private Land Uses
Land Use Policy 51, 76–84 (2016 Forthcoming)
9 Pages Posted: 22 Nov 2015 Last revised: 8 Jul 2016
Date Written: March 4, 2015
The terrain of private-land conservation dealmaking is shifting. As the number of acres of private land protected for conservation increases, our understanding of what it means for a property to be "conserved" is shifting. We examined 269 conservation easements and conducted 73 interviews with land conservation organizations to investigate changes in private-land conservation in the United States. We hypothesized that since 2000, conservation easements have become more complex but less restrictive. Our analysis reveals shifts in what it means for private land to be "conserved." We found that conservation easements have indeed become more complex, with more purposes and terms after 2000 compared to conservation easements recorded before 2000. However, changes in restrictiveness of conservation easements varied by land use. Mining and waste dumping were less likely to be allowed after 2000, but new residences and structures were twice as likely to be allowed. We found a shift toward allowing some bounded timber harvest and grazing, and a decline in terms that entirely allow or prohibit these working land uses. Interviews revealed staff perceptions of reasons for these changes. Our analysis suggests that "used" landscapes are increasingly important for conservation but that conserving these properties stretches the limits of simple, perpetual policy tools and requires increasingly complex and contingent agreements.
Keywords: conservation easement, land trust, nonprofit organization, private-land conservation, property rights
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