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Conservation easement

Conservation Easement is when ownership rights to land are transferred to a private charitable conservation organization or government agency without transferring ownership of the land. The organization or agency then ‘holds’ those rights (the easement) in perpetuity, even if the land is sold or bequeathed by the landowner to another party.

It is relevant in the following context. For ecological economics, an important focus is placed on the role of transaction costs when e.g. discussing Coasian bargaining, and also in general in the management of emissions trading and in the use of incentive mechanisms for environmental protection. Environmental governance typically involves administrative transactions rather than market transactions. It involves policing and enforcement costs: costs of making sure the other party sticks to the terms of the contract and of taking appropriate actions, mainly through the legal system, if this is not the case. Transaction costs comprise information collection and analysis, enactment of enabling legislation including lobbying costs, design and implementation of policy and support and administration of ongoing programmes, monitoring/detection and persecution/inducement costs. The amount of labour input required or spent could be translated into monetary costs. In empirical studies, a direct measurement of transaction costs is the economic value of resources and time used for locating trading partners and executing transactions, but it can also be measured by calculating the difference between the price paid by the buyer and the one received by the seller. Thus, for instance, we could compare the market and transaction costs of a PES scheme with another institution for conservation that requires changes in legal land tenure rights, such as a Conservation Easement programme.

For further reading

Byers, E., & Ponte, K. M. (2005) The conservation easement handbook. Washington, DC: Land Trust Alliance.

Rissman, A. R., Lozier, L., Comendant, T., Kareiva, P., Kiesecker, J. M., Shaw, M. R., & Merenlender, A. M. (2007). Conservation easements: biodiversity protection and private use. Conservation Biology, 21(3), 709-718.

This glossary entry is based on a contribution by Tom Bauler

EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

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