One-man Ban: Pennsylvania Farmer Fights for His Land
Stephen Cleghorn becomes first landowner in U.S. to use Conservation Easement recognizing “Rights of Nature” to ban fracking
Contact: J. Stephen Cleghorn, PhD
What: Press Conference announcing Conservation Easement to Ban Fracking
When: Wednesday, November 14th at 1:00 pm
Where: 2771 Paradise Road, Reynoldsville, PA 15851
Who: Organic farmer Stephen Cleghorn and representatives of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund will give a presentation and be available for interview.
“It’s not really my property,” Cleghorn affirms. “Nature had it first.”
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 to recognize and protect the rights of water, forest, and wild ecosystems.
The easement then bans activities, like shale gas hydro-fracking, 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. In a ceremony held on May 10th of this year, attended by scores of supporters, Cleghorn scattered his wife’s ashes and declared Paradise Gardens and Farm forever inviolate and off-limits to shale gas fracking.
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.
Preserving and Protecting
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.
Stephen Cleghorn may be emailed: firstname.lastname@example.org