Land Protection in Oklahoma

When I talk about land conservation in Oklahoma, I almost always preface the discussion by citing the statistic that more than 95% of land in Oklahoma is privately owned (that

Asserting property rights in Oklahoma!

makes us 9th in the U.S. for percentage of the state being privately owned – link for more data).  My point in referencing this percentage is to emphasize that any meaningful conservation in the state must include private landowners.  The Oklahoma Natural Areas Registry, the program that I coordinate through the Oklahoma Biological Survey, is one small piece of the land conservation puzzle of Oklahoma.  Mine is a voluntary program that encourages landowners to protect rare species on their property, but there is no legal commitment or permanent protection.  The Registry Program is a great first step in preserving natural diversity for those that have a special species on their land.  A more enduring strategy for land protection that is available to everyone, not only those with rare organisms, is a conservation easement.

Proud Registry Program Member

Conservation easements are voluntary, but legally binding, restrictions that landowners place on their property to limit future activities and development on the land.  Conservation easements can be tailored to the landowner’s needs and the specific conservation goals for the land.  Conservation easements can be written to protect property from future subdivision or additional structures.  Although the conservation easement places restrictions on the land, the landowner can continue activities, such as ranching or hunting, and landowners retains their property rights.  Conservation easements provide a tax advantage when they are donated by the landowner.

The development of a Conservation Easement may seem complicated, but there are several organizations in Oklahoma that can help landowners through the process.

Land Legacy is a nonprofit land conservation organization established in January 2003 and located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Their mission is to conserve and enhance rural and urban landscapes, thereby improving the quality of life. Their work includes urban parks and trails, farm and ranch preservation, and water quality protection.  Land Legacy was established in partnership with the Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, based in Poteau, Okla. Land Legacy serves the Southcentral United States, but focuses on Oklahoma and western Arkansas.  They have some excellent landowner resources on their website including a Conservation Easement Fact Sheet!

Norman Area Land Conservancy is a local nonprofit committed to preserving and protecting both urban and rural open spaces in the Norman area.  NALC was founded by nine Norman citizens in 2000, just a few months after the Oklahoma Legislature added “conservation easements” in 1999 to Oklahoma statutes.

Edmond Land Conservancy was born out of the Edmond Greenprint, a document produced in July 2003 by the City of Edmond’s Green City Task Force. The ELC was formed by several members of the Green City Task Force in September 2003.  With the help of seed money from the City of Edmond, ELC put its all volunteer organization together and under its adopted mission statement of: “Working to preserve, Create and Improve Edmond’s Natural, Scenic and Outdoor Recreation Environment,” set about to make itself known in the community and pursue projects consistent with the Greenprint.  A few years and over 100 acres under conservation easement later, ELC is working harder than ever to further its mission.




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