Privately Protected Areas
Private governance of nature emerges under land and sea tenure systems which agree rights over a property of private landholders. These rights may be through, for example, land title or long-term lease.
The landholder has rights to the exclusive occupation and use of the area, to assign or cede these rights to others through leasehold or other agreements, and to sell or alienate the property to successors in title. The landholders may therefore be:
- An individual or individuals who hold a title or lease to a property;
- A legally-constituted organisation, which owns the property/lease, including NGOs, community property owners’ associations, trusts and foundations;
- A company or corporation, which owns the property/ lease including not-for-profit, commercial or for-profit.
Several defining criteria for PPAs can be derived. To be considered a PPA, the land or sea:
- must be recognised, dedicated and managed as a protected area;
- must have nature conservation as the primary function of its protection status. This can include areas with other goals as well, but in the case of conflict, nature conservation will be the priority;
- must be dedicated to nature conservation in the long term, either through legal designation as a protected area, through a permanent or renewable binding agreement (e.g., conservation covenant or easement) or through governance by an organisation with clear perpetual conservation objectives;
- must be governed by a private entity. This excludes protected areas under public or shared governance. Governance in this context is understood as having decision making power over the establishment of a PPA; the long-term goal (vision) of the PPA; the management objectives; the adoption of a management plan and/or system; deciding who will implement the management; ensuring adequate human and financial resources.
Not all private land conservation initiatives can or should thus be treated as PPAs or should become PPAs. Where nature conservation is not the primary aim of the site management or is limited to the protection of parts of a larger property.
- Landowner: is willing to achieve conservation purposes on their property.
- Nature conservation organization: can collaborate with landowners to assess and achieve the conservation goals (optional).
- Governments: the public administration is the actor who allows this kind of temporary conservations, with specific measures and legislation, but no specific intervention (i.e. management).
- External evaluator: assesses the value of the rights that are given up.
- Nature consultant: assesses the ecosystem / habitats and supports setting up the nature conservation / restoration targets.
Rights and obligations
Duration of rights
Purpose and application
Economic transactions and fiscality
Opportunities for landowners
The landholders may lease or delegate governance or management responsibilities to others, including the private actors described above. Landholders usually have the right to determine the land-use including for nature conservation purposes.
Opportunities for conservation NGOs
- Designation of PPAs under the property of conservation NGOs, ensuring long-term nature protection of these sites.
- Governance framework that allows conservation NGOs to claim for effective nature conservation and restoration across the EU.
- Tool not allowed in many European countries.
- It is excluded of the regulation and benefits of the Natura 2000 sites or any other network of public natural areas.
- Lack of clarity about definitions and management and sometimes a poor match between areas protected and biodiversity richness.
- The existence of sometimes ineffective incentive structures have created the risk of ‘temporary’ PPAs being created and have sometimes limited creation of PPAs.
Barriers for landowners
- PPA owners complain of limited opportunity to engage with wider conservation policy and limited government support.
- The rights of landholders may be constrained by prevailing land-use planning laws that regulate activities that may be conducted on private property.