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Projects ~ Rights of Nature Conservation Easements

The Rights of Nature movement recognizes that we are all a part of, and not separate from, a natural community that has inherent and inalienable rights to exist, flourish, naturally evolve, and regenerate. By conventional law a landowner has the right to choose to damage and destroy their land and the ecosystems within those boundaries – or protect them.  A Rights of Nature Conservation Easement gives land owners a vehicle to legally bestow protective rights upon their property’s ecosystems, furthering the Rights of Nature movement, one parcel at a time. 

When a property owner establishes a Rights of Nature easement on their own land, it is reflected in the deed to the land, and stays with the deed regardless of future ownership. Each land owner is empowered to act in this way, to emancipate the ecosystem to which legal title is held. By contrast, a Community Bill Of Rights (CBOR) that recognizes the Rights of Nature engages the community to collectively change existing law to advance the Rights of Nature more broadly. Read more about CBORs here.

Two Buckingham, Virginia  properties are being transferred to Rights of Nature Conservation Easements. Virginians have expressed interest in this very new approach to protecting the natural community. If you are a landowner in Virginia, let us know how we can work together to protect your land.

Legally enforceable rights

Rights of Nature easements are legally enforceable modifications of land titles that allow private landowners to attach in perpetuity the Rights for Nature and ecosystems through the placement of conservation easements on their parcels of land.

For decades, traditional conservation easements have been used by landowners to protect land from development. These new Rights of Nature easements build on those traditional easements by including provisions which recognize the rights of waterways, forests, and other ecosystems to exist, flourish, naturally evolve, and regenerate.

The first Rights of Nature easement was established in Hawaii in December, 2017. Read more here.

Progress

The easements take laws, which have been adopted in the United States by cities, towns, and counties, and incorporate those laws into restrictions on the use of specific parcels of land.

The creation and recognition of those rights for ecosystems establish the principle that Nature has its own right to exist, flourish, evolve, and to be restored when damaged. The easements provide stronger legal protections for the land and the ecosystems dependent upon that land while allowing the property owner to ensure that this protection will persist even after ownership of the land changes hands.

 

What does a Rights of Nature easement do?
  • Legal rights for ecosystems are established within the property title and bind any future title holder to respect those rights.
  • An independent party, such as the Terra Conservancy, holds the easement in trust and has legal authority to prevent the violation of the easement, should a land owner decide to use the parcel for purposes that would harm or destroy the ecosystem.
  • Provides potential legal enforcement against harmful activities occurring outside of the parcel of land which may violate the rights of ecosystems on the land. For instance, drift from genetically modified crops or pollution of upstream waterways may have impacts on the ecosystems protected by Rights of Nature easements. Because it is the rights of those ecosystems which are recognized and secured by the easements, the easement may provide a mechanism to stop those activities.
  • Allows for a certain percentage of future development on the property.
  • Can be donated to any land trust or other organization which meets state legal requirements for holding easements with conservation value.
The Terra Conservancy

The Terra Conservancy has been established to hold and enforce Rights of Nature Conservation Easements. Stay tuned for more information.