As climate change leads to both internal displacement and mass migrations, we need not only new places for people to live but also new locations for infrastructure projects and other public needs. Some of the most attractive areas for these new land uses are currently unoccupied land, including land set aside for conservation. Numerous laws restrict the availability and possible uses of public conservation land. Individual agreements and property restrictions encumber private conservation land, varying in the ease with which the restrictions can be modified. For example, privately protected areas in the United States are often encumbered with perpetual conservation easements. The rigid rules of such protected areas combined with the increased number of private interests involved make them legally unattractive for land-use change even when they might be socially desirable locations for settlement. This Article examines opportunities and constraints for expanded use of conservation lands to meet climate migrant needs. I explore how these areas could respond to needs that develop in the context of climate change migration and illustrate the dangers of overly rigid land-use laws. Policy makers and conservationists should consider these tensions when drafting agreements and laws.
Jessica Owley, Climate-Induced Human Displacement and Conservation Lands, 58 Hous. L. Rev. 665 (2021).