New legal structure for long-term protection

The transformative effect of a 150 year protection lease? 

A mechanism is being developed to offer private owners the opportunity to protect wild or wilderness areas on their land effectively ‘in perpetuity’.

The initiative has been created by a partnership between Wild Europe and the Lifescape Project conservation charity in tandem with international law firm Clifford Chance LLP.

Known as “The Legal Mechanism”, this involves legal owners granting a guardian charity the right to enforce ecological protections over the land for 150 years or more, whilst retaining effective ownership of the land for themselves and their descendants, using a leasehold structure. The leases would contain covenants stipulating land use that gives full protection to ecosystems with their wildlife.

Based on well-established procedure in the ‘built’ property sector, the concept is now proven for legislatures in England, Wales and Scotland; a technical brochure has been produced and initial consultations are taking place with landowners. 

Preliminary overviews in France and Spain show promise, and this second stage appraisal and development will shortly be extended to three other countries as well.

Enabling vision for true ecological recovery

The protection conferred aims to cover time scales that are essential for proper ecological recovery. 

It is becoming possible for a landowner not only to ensure long term protection of existing forests, wetlands and other natural habitats, but also to undertake restoration in the knowledge of assured protection that will, for example, see regeneration of saplings become mature forest.

The vision of an individual owner, the heritage of their lifetime, can thus be reflected in the enduring ecological enrichment of an entire landscape.

A related form of protection also under development involves a structure of easements and covenants, based on models in the USA where fiscal incentives are also applied. There will be engagement with this initiative to ensure the best approach for relevant national legislation and landowner circumstance. 

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