Small-scale Forestry

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 35–47 | Cite as

A Survey of Forestland Conservation Easements in the United States: Implications for Forestland Owners and Managers

  • Michael J. MortimerEmail author
  • Jesse J. RichardsonJr.
  • Jeffrey S. Huff
  • Harry L. HaneyJr.
Research Paper


Internationally, conservation easements are increasingly popular land management tools for private landowners, government agencies and non-governmental organizations seeking to preserve forests and other natural settings. This paper reports a study of the design and use of conservation easements by organizations and public agencies in the USA. More than 355 conservation organizations and 16 state agencies holding at least 3,598 forestland easements were identified. Demonstrated shortfalls in baseline forest inventories, record keeping, and professionally-developed management plans were evident on working forest easements. Failure to address these shortcomings runs the risk of jeopardizing the legitimacy of the easement approach even where favorable legal and tax conditions exist. Management restrictions varied broadly, with a minority of respondents prohibiting such techniques as clearcutting and salvage logging. Concerns for the use of chemicals, best management practices, and streamside management zones were commonly reflected in easement language, whereas logging road design and the cultivation of old-growth conditions remain largely undeveloped. Implications from the US experience, where easements are relatively well-developed, highlights the need for professional forestry advice—particularly for non-industrial or small-scale forest owners—in both easement development and implementation, the need for careful planning, and the need to carefully consider the respective goals of the forest landowners in crafting the easement documents. In the cases of developing nations, consideration of the differing needs of landowners may require increased flexibility in management documents.


Property rights Easement documents Fragmentation and parcelization Baseline inventory Streamside management zones 


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Copyright information

© Steve Harrison, John Herbohn 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael J. Mortimer
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jesse J. RichardsonJr.
    • 2
  • Jeffrey S. Huff
    • 1
  • Harry L. HaneyJr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of ForestryVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.School of Public and International AffairsVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA

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