Setting a Social Precedent for the Rights of Nature

Impact Story 3



Center for Humans and Nature
Liberty Prairie Reserve, Central Lake County, IL

Partnering for greater impact

Protecting important landscapes

In 2023, Openlands transferred 43.55 acres of land to the Center for Humans & Nature, expanding the Center from five-acres to nearly 50 acres of prairie, wetland, woodland, ravine, and stream ecosystems. This property, which sits within the Liberty Prairie Reserve, is home to the Center’s Humans & Nature Press and the future Humans & Nature Farm.

Openlands, in partnership with the Center for Humans & Nature and with strategic input from the Earth Law Center, developed innovative and transformational language for the conservation easement that now impacts this land. Conservation easements are voluntary, legally binding agreements between land trusts like Openlands and a landowner, that limit the use of the land to protect its conservation values.  As a legal “bundle of rights,” this conservation easement underscores the land itself as having inherent and inalienable rights, including the right to exist, thrive, evolve, regenerate, and be respected and cared for. Furthermore, humans, as a part of nature, have the responsibility to ensure the rights of nature are realized. This easement sets a social precedent using existing legal structures to support the rights of nature. 

The expansion of the Center’s campus will provide a unique platform for education, exploration, and engagement in promoting a more sustainable and interconnected world. It is an exciting advancement within the Liberty Prairie Reserve, which Openlands played a key role in establishing in 1991. This ecologically significant area in central Lake County is home to 28 threatened wildlife species, with 60% of the Reserve permanently protected as open space. Openlands is the largest conservation easement holder in the Reserve, preserving nearly 1,300 acres to date through conservation easements. 

The conservation easement the Center for Humans & Nature developed in partnership with Openlands highlights our shared commitment to land relationships and the rights of nature. We are very grateful to Openlands for this partnership, which has allowed for a new chapter in the Center’s work.

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