Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Department or School/College

College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Laurie Yung

Commitee Members

Jill M. Belsky, Neva Hassanein


conservation, conservation easement, control, land trust, landowner motivations, perpetuity, property rights, trust


University of Montana


A conservation easement (CE) is a voluntary agreement that perpetually limits development on private land in order to protect open space, agricultural land, and scenic amenities, as well as ecological or historic resources. Due to the fact that CEs are voluntary, an understanding of the landowner’s decision about whether or not to participate in conservation easement programs is imperative if CE use is to continue and expand. Moreover, understanding how non-participating landowners view CEs, how they regard the incentives, and how CEs fit or do not fit with their ideas regarding private property and conservation is of critical importance for conservationists in this field. This study investigated the barriers to placing conservation easements on one’s property from the perspective of landowners in western Montana. This research was conducted in an effort to better understand how these landowners view conservation easements, where opposition to easements arises from, and how these perspectives might inform efforts to conserve private lands. An additional goal of this project was to investigate how landowner views and interests relative to easements differ between different types of landowners and among different geographic areas. Finally, the hope was that knowledge gained from this study would help illuminate mechanisms for addressing these barriers. Findings indicate that there are three distinct factors that discourage western Montana landowners from CEs. The first barrier was the perpetual nature of CEs. Landowners expressed a discomfort with perpetuity and did not think that a restriction on their property could remain workable forever. The second prevalent concern was the loss of control that landowners associated with CEs. Many landowners were concerned about the excessive micro-management they believed would accompany a CE. The third barrier was a lack of trust in the organizations and agencies that work with CEs. Landowners were concerned about how conservation organizations will manage the enforcement of CE agreements and also expressed concerns regarding non-local factors and government influence. These findings indicate that there is a wide range of interrelated reasons for why landowners decide not pursue CEs. These results highlight potential avenues for addressing landowner concerns as well as areas of continued challenge to expanded CE programs.



© Copyright 2011 Alayna S. DuPont