Recognizing Rights of Nature through a First-in-the-Country Deed Easement


Pennsylvania Landowner Recognizes Rights of Nature through a First-in-the-Country Deed Easement: Bans Fracking for Shale Gas

Urges Other Landowners Across the Country to Follow His Lead

Contact: J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD

(814) 568-1207

[A press conference will be held at 2771 Paradise Road, Reynoldsville, PA 15851, on November 14th at 1:00 pm.  Cleghorn and representatives of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund will give a presentation and be available for interviews.]

Paradise Community, Henderson Township, Jefferson County, PA, November 14, 2012 – J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD, a Pennsylvania organic farmer, has become the first landowner in the United States to use a conservation easement (a kind of deed restriction) to recognize, create and protect the Rights of Nature. The easement then bans activities like hydro-fracking for shale gas which would violate those rights, and elevates the Rights of Nature above the power claimed by extractive energy corporations to despoil the environment.

Cleghorn is the owner of Paradise Gardens and Farm– a fifty acre organic farm that sits above the Marcellus Shale formation in Henderson Township, Jefferson County, Pennsylvania.

Cleghorn established the easement in memory of his late wife, Dr. Lucinda Hart-González who died of lung cancer on November 14, 2011. On May 10 of this year Ms. Hart-González’s ashes were scattered on the property and the farm was declared forever inviolate and off-limits to shale gas fracking. The easement is dated as of the first anniversary of her death.

Over the last six months, Cleghorn has worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), a nonprofit, Pennsylvania-based law firm, to create an easement which secures the Rights of Nature legally on this property. The Legal Defense Fund has assisted over three dozen municipal governments in eight states to create local laws that recognize the Rights of Nature, and assisted in the drafting of the declaration of rights in the new Ecuadorian Constitution, through which Ecuador became the first country in the world to recognize the Rights of Nature.

Although warned by his lawyer that the easement might reduce his property’s value, Cleghorn states: “It’s not really my property. Nature had it first. Human laws that carve it up into market commodities that can be traded and sold matter less to me than the first rights of Nature. Besides, a recent study showed that shale gas drilling reduces the property value by 24% when that property depends on private water wells as mine does. For me this easement preserves this land for organic farming and protects it from an extreme form of fossil fuel extraction. I know plenty of potential buyers who would go along with those conditions. In the long run as we try to save this planet from us, I think I’ll be just fine on property value.”

Thomas Linzey, the Executive Director of CELDF, applauded Cleghorn’s actions, stating that “the time has come for the corporate ’right’ to destroy the earth be subordinated to the rights of our communities and nature. Stephen’s actions, in honor of his late wife, represent an expansion of the resistance against gas corporations in the State.”

Both Cleghorn and Linzey called on other landowners across the state, in addition to municipal governments, to take action to recognize the rights of communities and nature through both easements and local laws. A new Pennsylvania-based organization, the Terra Conservancy, is being established by CELDF to receive and enforce rights of nature easements.


About jstephencleghorn

My name is Stephen Cleghorn. I own a 50-acre certified organic farm in Jefferson County, PA that I operated with my late wife between 2005 and 2011 and did on my own for one year after she died in November 2011. The farm is now under lease to organic farmers and protected by "The Dr Lucinda Hart-Gonzalez Conservation Easement." If you’d like to know more about me, visit the farm’s website at and you can learn more about this farm and about the unique easement that affirms and protects the Rights of Nature to exist, flourish and evolve without interference from an industrial practice like fracking for shale gas. You can also link to a PowerPoint I have done on the need for a moratorium on unconventional drilling for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale by a means commonly known as “fracking” – which refers to the whole process known as “high volume slickwater fracking of long laterals” to release gas from tight shale formation such as the Marcellus. This blog will be occasional posts about the “fracking” and those who would transform one-half the land mass of Pennsylvania into an industrialized zone to get at the shale gas and realize millions in profits for themselves. The blog’s name is taken from the writings of Saint Augustine who believed “Hope” to be the greatest of spiritual gifts. And, says Augustine, Hope has two lovely daughters: anger and courage. Anger so that what must not be may not be; courage so that what should be can be. Anger and Courage. We will need both in this struggle to defeat the fracking that could lay waste to one-half of Pennsylvania and threaten the water supplies of millions of people. This blog will be about having the courage to stand up to the massive global corporations that would ruin our state, take their profits, and leave the mess to future generations of Pennsylvanians to clean up. We need to rise up, my friends and be not afraid.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Recognizing Rights of Nature through a First-in-the-Country Deed Easement

  1. Pingback: One-man Ban: Pennsylvania Farmer Fights for His Land « Protecting Our Waters

  2. Jo Shrimplin says:

    I am half owner of a Civil War Grant farm in Ohio that has been in the family all the years since. It is currently certified organic farm land. I am planning to leave at least my half deed restricted to deny oil and gas exploration and production. I will closely follow your actions and so appreciate your lead.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s