Private Property Relations and Conservation Practice

  • Benjamin CookeEmail author
  • Ruth Lane


Private property is a central component of conservation on private land, but what exactly is meant by private property and how does it shape the potential for conservation practices? This chapter unpacks western, liberal private property before examining its conservation implications. As private property is deeply implicated in the spatial and temporal configuration of landscapes, it has substantial consequences for how conservation is understood and enacted. As we will outline, we need to think less passively about nature conservation as happening on private land, to an awareness that it happens through an interplay of property, people and ecologies. This awareness allows us to see whether and how configurations of property rights need to shift in order to meet conservation challenges amidst socio-ecological crisis.


Private property Ownership Property rights Conservation Nonhuman 


  1. ABC News. (2016, October 26). Joyce accuses ALP of adopting communist-style land clearing laws. Accessed 14 February 2019.
  2. Adams, V. M., & Moon, K. (2013). Security and equity of conservation covenants: Contradictions of private protected area policies in Australia. Land Use Policy, 30(1), 114–119. Scholar
  3. Blomley, N. (2014, December). Making space for property. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 104, 1291–1306. Scholar
  4. Blomley, N. (2016). The territory of property. Progress in Human Geography, 40(5), 593–609. Scholar
  5. Brown, K. M., Flemsæter, F., & Rønningen, K. (2019, January). More-than-human geographies of property: Moving towards spatial justice with response-ability. Geoforum, 99, 54–62. Scholar
  6. Cadieux, K. V. (2011). Competing discourses of nature in exurbia. GeoJournal, 76, 341–363. Scholar
  7. Cooke, B., & Lane, R. (2015). How do amenity migrants learn to be environmental stewards of rural landscapes? Landscape and Urban Planning, 134, 43–52. Scholar
  8. Cooke, B., & Lane, R. (2018). Plant-human commoning: Navigating enclosure, neoliberal conservation, and plant mobility in exurban landscapes. Annals of the American Association of Geographers, 108(6), 1715–1731. Scholar
  9. Crabtree, L. (2017). Transitioning around the elephant in the room: Resilience, property and the fate of cities. City, 21(6), 883–893. Scholar
  10. Fiege, M. (2005). The weedy west: Mobile nature, boundaries, and common space in the Montana landscape. The Western Historical Quarterly, 35(1), 22–47. Retrieved from Scholar
  11. Gammage, B. (2012). The biggest estate on earth: How Aborigines made Australia. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  12. Graham, N. (2011). Lawscapes: Property, environment and law. London and New York: Routledge-Cavendish.Google Scholar
  13. Hepburn, S. (2011). Not quite The Castle: Why miners have a right to what’s under your land. The Conversation. Retrieved from
  14. Hodgetts, T. (2018). Connectivity as a multiple: In, with and as “nature”. Area, 50(1), 83–90. Scholar
  15. Jakes, A. F., Jones, P. F., Paige, L. C., Seidler, R. G., & Huijser, M. P. (2018, June). A fence runs through it: A call for greater attention to the influence of fences on wildlife and ecosystems. Biological Conservation, 227, 310–318. Scholar
  16. Keenan, Sarah. (2014). Subversive property: Law and the production of spaces of belonging. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  17. Li, T. M. (2014). What is land? Assembling a resource for global investment. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 39(4), 589–602. Scholar
  18. Linebaugh, Peter. (2008). The magna carta manifesto: Liberties and commons for all. Oakland: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  19. Mansfield, B. (2008). Property and the remaking of nature-society relations. In B. Mansfield (Ed.), Privatization: Property and the remaking of nature-society relations (pp. 1–13). Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. Marshall, G. R., Coleman, M. J., Sindel, B. M., Reeve, I. J., & Berney, P. J. (2016). Collective action in invasive species control, and prospects for community-based governance: The case of serrated tussock (Nassella trichotoma) in New South Wales, Australia. Land Use Policy, 56, 100–111.Google Scholar
  21. Massey, D. (1980). The pattern of landownership and its implications for policy. Built Environment, 6(4), 263–271. Retrieved from
  22. Mendham, E., & Curtis, A. (2010). Taking over the reins: Trends and impacts of changes in rural property ownership. Society & Natural Resources, 23(7), 653–668. Scholar
  23. Ojalammi, S., & Blomley, N. (2015). Dancing with wolves: Making legal territory in a more-than-human world. Geoforum, 62, 51–60. Scholar
  24. Pecl, G. T., Araújo, M. B., Bell J. D., Blanchard, J., Bonebrake, T. C., Chen, I. C., … Williams, S. E. (2017, in press). Biodiversity redistribution under climate change: Impacts on ecosystems and human well-being. Science. Scholar
  25. Yung, L., & Belsky, J. M. (2007). Private property rights and community goods: Negotiating landowner cooperation amid changing ownership on the Rocky Mountain Front. Society & Natural Resources, 20(8), 689–703. Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Global, Urban and Social StudiesRMIT UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Social SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations