Land ownership and law

Proving legal rights over the land being protected

Participants in the biodiversity crediting system must prove their legal rights to the land. Credits may go to owners and stewards of the land as well as individuals and organizations with other types of rights to the land (ie. hunting rights). All parties with legal rights to the land must be rewarded for preservation rather than exploitation of the land. The projects should provide a description of the property rights and land area involved.

Land rights can vary from site to site, and must follow jurisdictional requirements. This methodology is specifically designed to allow IP and LCs with incomplete land rights to participate in conservation activities if they can provide clear proof of land tenancy. A sample land validation protocol is provided for the Colombian national jurisdiction (Appendix B).

The following types of legal rights are recognized by the ISBM:

  • Legal ownership in the form of title, or

  • Land use rights (for example, hunting rights or logging contracts), or

  • Stewardship (local groups allowed to occupy and sustain themselves on the territory).

The BCP must demonstrate or obtain the expressed written authorization of an individual, public or collective organization, holder, or administrator of the land and boundaries on which the project activity is implemented. If more than one type of legal right applies, all parties must provide authorization. In the case of privately owned land, express proof must be provided by the owner or holder of the land authorizing the BCP to be carried out.

The ISBM offers the provision for legal stewardship rather than necessitating outright ownership of the land, based on political, social, and cultural arguments in historically biodiverse zones. From a cultural perspective, many IPs simply do not recognize the rights of humans to “own” natural resources. On numerous occasions, ISBM co-originators have emphasized that the land cannot be owned only stewarded. In other cases, the government of the country may be maintaining legal rights to the lands and prohibiting full legal ownership by Indigenous peoples. In the absence of legal title to land, proof of guardianship or land stewardship can be used by the BCP, provided necessary documentation is submitted (For an example, see Appendix B).

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