Land conservation transactions have been the most active component of the conservation movement in the United States for the past three decades. Conservation organizations have acquired property rights-mostly conservation easements-to protect roughly 40 million acres of land nationwide. However, climate change threatens this vast edifice. Climate change means that the resources that land conservation transactions were intended to protect may not persist on the land protected. Options to purchase conservation easements ("OPCEs") have long played a modest but important role in conservation law practice. In the world climate change is creating, with its substantial uncertainties and shifting windows of opportunity, OPCEs can serve more complicated and strategic purposes. This potential would be significantly increased if state legislatures amended current conservation easement enabling statutes to: (1) specifically recognize OPCEs, (2) immunize OPCEs from a range ofpotential common law challenges, and (3) integrate OPCEs into the burgeoning body of conservation easement law. These statutory amendments would do for OPCEs what conservation easement statutes have done for conservation easements: transform them into an essential multi-purpose tool for conservation in a changing world.
Federico Cheever and Jessica Owley, Enhancing Conservation Options: An Argument for Statutory Recognition of Options to Purchase Conservation Easements (OPCEs), 40 Harv. Envtl. L. Rev. 1 (2016).