Land Use Regulation

Land ownership and its use are conditionally protected by the United States Constitution. Over the course of almost a millennium of English and American jurisprudence, the law has recognized that certain land uses cause unreasonable harm to neighboring landowners or the public at large.

The law has long recognized trespass, nuisance, both public and private, as well as other legal concepts, as both limiting and protecting the rights of landowners. More recently, both Federal and State statutes have protected the value that natural resources provide, measured as ecosystem services that include clean water and air quality wildlife and fish, and tourism.

Property ownership

The Land Use Regulation resource page covers the intersection where the legal rights of property ownership and use meet the rights of the public and other landowners- by government regulation or private action – to limit certain rights and uses.

Topics include:

  • forms of land ownership
  • how ownership rights are acquired
  • how property is zoned by local government
  • how types and levels of use may be restricted by neighbor action and government regulation.
  • how society provides landowners incentives — through limitations of tort liability

Cash payments and tax deductions — to pursue certain land uses over others — which include examples such as:

  • conservation easements
  • stream mitigation
  • conservation programs (e.g. Farm Bill)
  • wildlife habitat enhancement
  • differential property taxation for agricultural, forestry, and conservation use

Also covered are issues related to the interaction of concurrent owners and users of land:

  • heir property
  • farm leases
  • timber and hunting rights
  • recreation access
  • use easements and licenses

Tax Incentives and Land Use

The Agriculture and Resource Economics department has investigated the interface between tax incentives and land use into land trust preserving land into so-called conservation easement. Tax incentives vary by state and are overlaid on top of federal taxes and influence charitable donation of land. This project is led by Wally Thurman.

Land use for recreational activities is another topic being explored. The Cape Hatteras National Seashore in the Outer Banks restricts access to recreational vehicles to protects some habitats. The restrictions create some cost for shoreline fishing and has induced strong opposition from local interests because of lost economic activities. The program looks at the cost and benefits of these restrictions and sheds light on the debate on off-road vehicle rules in national parks. Roger von Haefen leads this project