Not everyone is familiar with conservation easements, though they are one of the best ways to help bridge the gap between environmentalists and private land owners.
Although they can get very complicated really quick, in their most popular form the basic idea is that ranchers, farmers or other private landowners get paid to not develop their land. This not only benefits many landowners financially, but also ensures that their land will remain in their family. This is very important to many small-time ranchers, for instance, who have made a living off the land and want to ensure that their children can do the same.
This is also great for conservation. Many endangered and imperiled species live on land that is owned privately. By working with local landowners and providing them incentives, government and non-profit environmental organizations can help ensure that species are protected for years to come.
The best kind of conservation takes the human perspective into account. Many organizations and people have made the mistake of putting the environment and animals in competition with people. Conservation easements, however, benefit the environment and local landowners, and put the stewardship back in the hands of the people. Taking people into account is a technique that has been adopted by organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund in many of their projects around the globe: making the people who live on the land the stewards of the land and wildlife. This has shown far greater success than any laws or harsh policing of lands.
I challenge all organizations to follow this approach and truly work with landowners instead of competing against them. Although there are other types of conservation, this surely one of the best ways to successfully conserve the land and wildlife that we love.