Uncertainty of Land Tenure and the Effects of Sustainability if Agriculture in the United States

  • Jesse J. Richardson
Part of the International Yearbook of Soil Law and Policy book series (IYSLP, volume 2017)


Uncertain land tenure reduces the likelihood that sustainable land management practices, including soil conservation, will be implemented. Agriculture presents a particularly stark case on the clear connection between land tenure certainty and sustainability. This chapter examines this connection in the United States with respect to leasing, conservation easements, and heirs property. In each of these contexts, land tenure certainty is impaired, leading to less likelihood of sustainable agricultural practices. Leases in the United States tend to be oral, year-to-year leases, giving both the landlord and tenant short-term decision horizons that prove to be shortsighted with respect to soil conservation and sustainability. While conservation easements conjure notions of sustainability and healthy soils in theory, in practice many easement provisions increase uncertainty of tenure and imperil implementation of sustainable land practices. With respect to agriculture, the inherent conflicts between the conservation values protected in the easement and production agriculture increase the uncertainty of land tenure and cause results that may reduce sustainability. Finally, heirs property leads to the tragedy of the anticommons and underuse of the property. Although passive neglect may preserve soil health in many cases, the condition prevents active augmentation of soils and sustainable practices. In all of these cases, measures should be undertaken to increase land tenure certainty, leading to better soil health.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.West Virginia University College of Law, Land Use and Sustainable Development Law ClinicMorgantownUSA

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