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What is an Environmental Easement?
An environmental easement is a voluntary or negotiated, legal agreement between a landowner and a Conservation Organization / Land Trust that permanently limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values. It allows you to continue to own and use your land and to sell it or pass it on to heirs.
When you donate a environmental easement to a Conservation Organization / Land Trust, you give up some of the rights associated with the land. For example, you might give up the right to build additional structures, while retaining the right to grow crops. Future owners also will be bound by the easement's terms. The Conservation Organization / Land Trust is responsible for making sure the easement's terms are followed on a long-term basis.
Environmental easements offer great flexibility. An easement on property containing rare wildlife habitat might prohibit any development, for example, while one on a farm might allow continued farming and the building of additional agricultural structures. An easement may apply to just a portion of the property and need not require public access.
A landowner sometimes sells an environmental easement, but internationally usually easements are donated. Perhaps most important, an environmental easement can be essential for passing land on to the next generation. By removing the land's development potential, the easement may lower its market value although protect it forever. Whether the easement is donated during life or by will, it can make a critical difference in the heirs' ability to keep the land intact.
Why should I grant an environmental easement to a Conservation Organization / Land Trust?
People grant an environmental easement because they love their open space land, and want to protect their land from inappropriate development while keeping their private ownership of the property. By granting an environmental easement to a conservation organization such as the Kenya Land Conservation Trust, a landowner can assure that the property will be protected forever and remain as a permanent open space, regardless of who owns the land in the future.
Are environmental easements popular?
They are very popular throughout the world. For example, in the USA between 2000 and 2005, the amount of land protected by Conservation Organizations / Land Trusts using easements doubled to 6.2 million acres. Landowners have found that environmental easements can be flexible tools, and yet provide a permanent guarantee that the land won't ever be developed. Environmental easements are used to protect all types of land, including coastlines; farm and ranch land; historical or cultural landscapes; scenic views; streams and rivers; wetlands; wildlife areas; and working forests.
What activities are allowed on land protected by an environmental easement?
The activities allowed by an easement depend on the landowner's wishes and the characteristics of the property. In some instances, no further development is allowed on the land. In other circumstances, some additional development is allowed, but the amount and type of development is less than would otherwise be allowed. Environmental easements may be designed to cover all or only a portion of a property. Every easement is unique, tailored to a particular landowner's goals and their land.
Can the landowner still sell or give the property away?
The landowner continues to own the property after executing an easement. Therefore, the owner can sell, give or lease the property, as before. However, all future owners assume ownership of the property subject to the conditions of the easement.
How long does an environmental easement last?
Most easements "run with the land," binding the original owner and all subsequent owners to the easement's restrictions. The easement is recorded with the Lands Control Board after a court proceeding so that all future owners and lenders will learn about the restrictions when they obtain title reports.
Does the public have a right of access to easement-protected property?
The public does not have access to property protected by an easement unless the original landowner who grants the easement specifically allows it. Most easement donors do not want, and therefore do not allow, public access to their property.
What are a Conservation Organization / Land Trust's responsibilities regarding environmental easements?
The Conservation Organization / Land Trust is responsible for enforcing the restrictions that the easement document spells out. Therefore, the Conservation Organization / Land Trust monitors the property on a regular basis - typically once a year or more often as required - to determine that the property remains in the condition prescribed by the easement document.
The Conservation Organization / Land Trust maintains written records of these monitoring visits, which also provides the landowner a chance to keep in touch with the Conservation Organization / Land Trust.
Many Conservation Organization / Land Trusts establish endowments to provide for long-term stewardship of the easements they hold.
Where possible, the Conservation Organization / Land Trust asks easement donors to make a financial contribution to the Endowment Fund. This fund ensures long-term monitoring and enforcement of every easement the received.
Who owns and manages easement-protected land?
The landowner retains full rights to control and manage their property within the limits of the easement. The landowner continues to bear all costs and liabilities related to the ownership and maintenance of the property. The trust monitors the property to ensure compliance with the easement's terms, but it has no other management responsibilities and exercises no direct control over other activities on the land.
Does the easement have to cover all the landowner’s property?
Not necessarily, some easements only cover a portion of the landowner's property. Again, it depends on the landowner's wishes. For example, if someone owns 200 acres, of which 100 acres are wetlands, the landowner may decide to restrict development only to these 100 acres. The remaining 100 acres would not be covered or affected by the easement.
What kind of land can be protected by environmental easements?
Ideally, the property should have “significant” conservation values which are outlined in the criteria established by the trust. This includes but not limited to grasslands, forests, wetlands, endangered species habitat, beaches, scenic areas and more. At the invitation of the landowner trust staff can evaluate the property to determine whether it meets these criteria.
Kenya is home to some of the world’s most iconic wildlife species, from elephants and lions to rhinos and giraffes. These animals are not just symbols of Kenya’s natural beauty, but also crucial players in the country’s tourism industry, which is a major source of revenue and employment.
However, climate change poses a serious threat to Kenya’s wildlife, and the tourism industry that depends on them. In this article, we will explore the impacts of climate change on Kenya’s wildlife and what can be done to protect them.
One of the most visible impacts of climate change on Kenya’s wildlife is changes in their habitats. As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns shift, vegetation patterns change, leading to the loss of grazing land and food sources for wildlife. This can force animals to move to new areas in search of food and water, putting them in conflict with human settlements and increasing their exposure to hunting and poaching.
Another major impact of climate change on Kenya’s wildlife is the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Droughts and floods can cause mass deaths of wildlife, as animals are unable to access water or are swept away by floods. This can also lead to the spread of diseases, as animals become weakened and more susceptible to infections.
Climate change can also have indirect impacts on wildlife in Kenya. For instance, changes in weather patterns can affect the timing of plant flowering and fruiting, which can in turn affect the populations of insects and other small animals that rely on those plants for food. This can cause a ripple effect up the food chain, ultimately affecting the survival of larger animals such as elephants and giraffes.
Unfortunately, the impacts of climate change on Kenya’s wildlife are not just hypothetical - they are already being felt. For example, in recent years, Kenya has experienced increasingly severe droughts, which have led to mass deaths of wildlife, including elephants and hippos. In 2018, more than 400 elephants died due to a lack of water and food caused by a severe drought in northern Kenya. This is just one example of the devastating impact that climate change can have on Kenya’s wildlife.
So, what can be done to protect Kenya’s wildlife from the threats posed by climate change? The first step is to address the root cause of the problem: greenhouse gas emissions. As a developing country, Kenya is not a major contributor to global emissions, but it is still taking steps to reduce its own emissions through initiatives such as the National Climate Change Action Plan and the Renewable Energy Feed-In Tariff.
However, reducing emissions alone will not be enough to protect Kenya’s wildlife. We also need to take steps to help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. This could include measures such as the establishment of wildlife corridors that allow animals to move between habitats, the creation of artificial water sources to supplement natural ones during droughts, and the development of early warning systems to alert wildlife rangers and local communities to impending extreme weather events.
In addition, we need to take steps to address the other threats facing Kenya’s wildlife, such as poaching and habitat loss. These threats are often intertwined with the impacts of climate change, as the loss of grazing land and water sources can force animals into conflict with humans, making them more vulnerable to poaching. To address these threats, we need to invest in effective law enforcement and community-based conservation initiatives that provide local communities with the incentives and tools they need to protect wildlife.
Finally, we need to listen to the voices of local communities and indigenous peoples, who have valuable knowledge and insights into how best to protect Kenya’s wildlife. These communities are often the first to feel the impacts of climate change and other threats to wildlife, and they have been living sustainably with their environments for generations. By working in partnership with these communities, we can develop more effective strategies to combat the serious threats.
Climate change is an issue that affects every living creature on this planet, and it is one that requires urgent action. As we look for solutions to mitigate the impact of climate change, it is important to recognize the role that local and indigenous voices play in this fight.
Indigenous peoples are often the first to feel the impact of climate change, as their livelihoods and cultures are deeply connected to the natural world. They have been living sustainably on their lands for generations, and their traditional knowledge and practices remains to hold valuable insights into how we can adapt to a changing climate.
Local communities, too, have an important role to play. They are often on the front lines of climate change, experiencing its impacts firsthand, from extreme weather events to rising sea levels. They are also well-positioned to come up with innovative solutions to address these challenges, based on their deep understanding of their local environments.
However, for too long, these voices have been marginalised in the global conversation on climate change. Their knowledge and expertise have been overlooked, and their rights to their lands and resources have been threatened. This has led to a disconnect between global policies and local realities, and has hindered progress in the fight against climate change.
But there is reason for hope. In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the important role that local and indigenous voices play in this fight. In 2015, the Paris Agreement explicitly recognized the importance of engaging local communities and indigenous peoples in climate action, and called for their full and effective participation in decision-making processes.
This recognition is not just lip service - there are concrete examples of how local and indigenous voices are making a difference in the fight against climate change. In the Amazon rainforest, for instance, indigenous communities have been using traditional agroforestry practices to regenerate degraded land and restore biodiversity. In the Arctic, indigenous peoples have been monitoring sea ice conditions and using traditional knowledge to adapt to changing conditions. And in Bangladesh, local communities have been using innovative technologies, such as floating gardens, to adapt to flooding caused by rising sea levels.
These examples demonstrate the power of local and indigenous knowledge and practices to address the challenges of climate change. They show that solutions do not always have to come from the top down - they can also emerge from the bottom up, from the ground level.
But engaging local and indigenous communities in climate action is not just a matter of pragmatism, it is also a matter of justice. Indigenous peoples have been historically marginalised and oppressed, and their lands and resources have been exploited for the benefit of others. This has led to environmental degradation, loss of biodiversity, and the erosion of cultural heritage.
Recognising the role of local and indigenous voices in climate action is therefore not just a matter of achieving more effective solutions, it is also a matter of acknowledging historical injustices and working towards a more equitable future.
This means not just listening to local and indigenous voices, but also supporting their efforts to protect their lands and resources. It means respecting their rights to free, prior, and informed consent, and ensuring that they have a seat at the table in decision-making processes. It means recognizing the value of their traditional knowledge and practices, and incorporating them into global efforts to address climate change.
Of course, there are challenges to engaging local and indigenous communities in climate action. There can be language and cultural barriers, as well as differences in worldviews and priorities. There can also be power imbalances, with global actors holding more influence and resources than local communities.
But these challenges can be overcome through genuine collaboration and partnership. This means taking the time to build relationships with local and indigenous communities, and working to understand their perspectives and priorities. It means involving them in every step of the decision-making process, from planning to implementation to monitoring and evaluation. And it means providing them with the resources they may need in order to best mitigate the challenges.
Since 2015, the UN General Assembly have issued at least three resolutions calling for a stronger response to illegal wildlife trafficking. The Kasane Conference in Botswana in 2015 did the same, as did the Hanoi Statement in Vietnam in 2016 and the London Declaration in 2018. These strongly worded resolutions and commitments were signed by nearly all countries who attended these expensive conferences to discuss the wildlife trade. The EU Action Plan delivered in 2016 also committed the EU to fighting this scourge.
Now, in 2021, there is a call for yet another international commitment in the form of an additional protocol to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime. Discussions held mostly within an echo chamber of nodding heads, the proponents of an initiative termed ‘the fourth protocol’ is being put forward by a primarily white male steering committee and a technical committee made up of only one criminal lawyer, based in New York. The other lawyers on this committee do not practice and none of any of the team at ‘endwildlifecrime.org’ have ever practiced as trial counsel in an African or Asian courtroom. Is this another example of white savior colonial complex coming up with a ‘solution’ when some of them, it could be said, have actually presided over the total failure of our global efforts to protect wildlife?
The world celebrated when newly sworn in President of the United States of America, Joe Biden signed an executive order for the USA to re-join the Paris Accord. Climate change governance has had quite the roller-coaster ride since the early 1980’s. Concerned about the impacts of the anthropogenic emissions of Green House Gases- GHCs- on climate change, the international community began consultations that led to the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in May 1992.
On the third Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was adopted as a document pursuant to the need to come up with binding commitments on actions required to realize the objectives of the Convention. This document set out stringent emissions reduction obligations on countries. The framework had an implantation period that ended in 2015 with the adoption of the Paris Agreement.
The Paris Agreement was adopted by nearly every nation in 2015 to address the deficiencies in the Kyoto Protocol and more efficiently deal with the global challenge of climate change.
Under the administration of former president George Bush, the USA objected to commitments on emissions reductions, arguing that the Convention should take a comprehensive approach on the reduction of all GHG emissions as opposed to the singular focus on CO2.
Every change of administration in the USA brings with it impacts on the participation of the USA in international climate change governance. Under President Obama, the United States played a pivotal role in negotiating the Paris agreement and bringing everyone on board for a post Kyoto mechanism.
Overall, the Paris Agreement has been a step forward from its predecessor in that it has global support from majority of the world’s nations and superpowers and it has the potential to slow climate change through its continuous improvement model. It creates clean energy jobs and levels the playing field for different countries, thus offering a more balanced and equitable approach to distribution of responsibility.
The Trump administration however demonstrated a commitment to its foreign policy of “America First” and this spilled over into critical areas that require international cooperation such as climate change and health. Previous Republican administrations often cited deficiencies of the Paris Accord that made it difficult for the USA to participate fully.
Key amongst these is the fact that the Paris Agreement compliance system does not place fair and equal obligations on the world’s largest and fastest growing economies. They argue that it excluded rapidly industrializing and growing economies such as China and India who are large polluters and placed lesser obligations on these countries than it did the USA.
Unfortunately, the participation of the United States impacts the capacity of developing countries like Kenya to implement mitigation and adaptation strategies. The USA is the second largest contribute to CO2 gas emissions after China. Its willingness to bind itself to commitments to significantly reduce emissions will have a tremendous impact on global reductions over time.
Secondly, the highest emissions currently come from the transport sector, where the USA is one of the leading players. Given that clean energy investment is more expensive, the lack of transition by one of the leading actors in the sector will impact the competitiveness of the market. This may lead other key players in the transport industry such as German to rethink their commitments as a result.
The participation of the USA later this year as the world leaders will meet in Glasgow to discuss next steps will be invaluable. There will be need to identify a mechanism to incentivize countries to make bolder commitments. The USA is in a position to significantly support and address the desperate need for major research, development and deployment of innovative new technologies needed to achieve these goals. The decision by the new US President affords the world an opportunity to continue working together to address the non-discriminatory threat of climate change.
Science predicts, that short of quick ambitious actions, the world as we know it will become inhabitable in the near future.