Sponsored by the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and The Nature Conservancy  

Sustaining effective conservation in the context of climate change will be a critical goal in this century. Achieving this vision will require rethinking existing legal instruments and policies for developing and sustaining protected areas. 

This exploratory workshop brings together a small group of leading legal scholars, practitioners, and scientists in the conservation field. Through a series of presentations and discussions, the group examines new ideas and approaches, such as whether and how to modify existing conservation easements and other instruments to aide in adapting to a changing climate in the future. A goal of the workshop on Private Conservation Instruments and Policy in a Changing Climate is to develop preliminary recommendations for changes in conservation law, policy, and practice to facilitate adaptation of conservation strategies to a changing climate, as well as an agenda for further analysis and outreach. The Stanford Woods Institute and The Nature Conservancy will produce a public report that summarizes key concepts, discussion points, and research proposals that come out of the workshop. 

Traditional conservation has focused on establishing protected areas around key ecosystems, habitats, or species of concern. In the U.S., protected areas on private lands have been secured primarily through permanent conservation tools, such as fee titles or conservation easements and, less often, through more flexible and non-permanent instruments, including leases, management agreements, and contracts. While permanent protected areas will continue to be important for ensuring persistence of critical functions and attributes of ecosystems into the future, the specific attributes for which protected areas are established is certain to change in under a changing climate. 

A changing climate will thus challenge the instruments, terms, laws, regulations, and policies that underpin the current development and efficacy of protected areas. We therefore need a fresh analysis of the full suite of conservation instruments to protect existing conservation investments and to ensure that future investments are efficient and effective. The conservation community of scientific, legal, and policy experts must begin to lay the foundation for the development of new, and the modification of existing, legal and management instruments that will allow the implementation of effective conservation strategies under climate change. This Exploratory Workshop on Private Conservation Instruments and Policy in a Changing Climate will begin to address these critical issues.