[The copyright line for this article was changed on February 18, 2015 after original online publication]
Adapting Conservation Easements to Climate Change
Version of Record online: 1 MAY 2014
Copyright and Photocopying: ©2014 The Authors. Conservation Letters published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.
Volume 8, Issue 1, pages 68–76, January/February 2015
How to Cite
Rissman, A. R., Owley, J., Shaw, M. R. and Thompson, B. (2015), Adapting Conservation Easements to Climate Change. Conservation Letters, 8: 68–76. doi: 10.1111/conl.12099
- Issue online: 26 FEB 2015
- Version of Record online: 1 MAY 2014
- Accepted manuscript online: 25 MAR 2014 12:42PM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 18 MAR 2014
- Manuscript Received: 24 OCT 2013
- Resources Legacy Fund
- University of Wisconsin-Madison
- Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy
- Administrative discretion;
- climate change adaptation;
- conservation easements;
- environmental policy and law;
- land trusts;
- private land conservation;
- protected areas
Perpetual conservation easements (CEs) are popular for restricting development and land use, but their fixed terms create challenges for adaptation to climate change. The increasing pace of environmental and social change demands adaptive conservation instruments. To examine the adaptive potential of CEs, we surveyed 269 CEs and interviewed 73 conservation organization employees. Although only 2% of CEs mentioned climate change, the majority of employees were concerned about climate change impacts. CEs share the fixed-boundary limits typical of protected areas with additional adaptation constraints due to permanent terms on private lands. CEs often have multiple, potentially conflicting purposes that protect against termination but complicate decisions about principled, conservation-oriented adaptation. Monitoring is critical for shaping adaptive responses, but only 35% of CEs allowed organizations to conduct ecological monitoring. In addition, CEs provided few requirements or incentives for active stewardship of private lands. We found four primary options for changing land use restrictions, each with advantages and risks: CE amendment, management plan revisions, approval of changes through discretionary consent, and updating laws or policies codified in the CE. Conservation organizations, funders, and the Internal Revenue Service should promote processes for principled adaptation in CE terms, provide more active stewardship of CE lands, and consider alternatives to the CE tool.