Balancing Property Rights and Social Responsibilities: Perspectives of Conservation Easement Landowners
Additional Document Info
Published by Elsevier Inc. on behalf of The Society for Range Management. Currently, > 20 million acres in the United States are protected through conservation easements. While the role of property rights in enabling conservation easements is well documented, attitudes of landowners living under those property rights regimes have not been thoroughly researched. To address the knowledge gap, landowners in Texas with perpetual conservation easements participated in a mail survey and resulting data were compared with prior research on the property rights perspectives of a group of noneasement-owning rural landowners. Our study indicates that easement and noneasement landowners differ in their attitudes concerning both property rights and social responsibilities with respect to land management. While landowners in both groups agreed that property ownership conveyed certain fundamental rights, noneasement landowners expressed stronger conventional property rights attitudes than easement landowners. Counter to expectations, noneasement landowners were also more likely to express a stronger land stewardship ethic. We also found significant demographic differences between the two groups with easement landowners tending to be younger, having more formal education, being less likely to live on their rural property and owning their property for a shorter period of time. Those demographic differences, combined with differences between the two groups of landowners with respect to dependence on their land for income, locational differences of the two surveys from which data were obtained, and the 9-yr span between the two surveys limited our ability to extrapolate our findings to a broader population of landowners. Intragroup comparisons among easement landowners failed to find differences between easement-granting and successive generation easement landowners with respect to property rights orientations, but we did find some attitudinal differences between male and female respondents. Our research implies that landowners willing to accept substantial property rights adjustments designed to facilitate environmental protection goals may have inherently different attitudes concerning property rights ideals.