Conservation is a collaborative effort that should allow all members of a community to share in its benefits.
However, throughout history, land conservation benefited from and contributed to inequities that exist today. Institutional racism in our country sought to marginalize people of color by blocking pathways to land ownership. These inequitable practices that shaped access to land ownership means that today, our sector’s work does not benefit all people as we intend. By working with our partners to examine our relationships with communities we serve and the link between land conservation and racial equity, we can evolve the way we do our work to create a more equitable sector for all.
Forced Partition Sale of Heirs' Property
Heirs’ property occurs when land is passed down through generations and owned by many descendants with an undivided interest in the land. Owners of family-owned land are vulnerable to involuntary land loss resulting from a forced sale of the property. In North Carolina, anyone who inherits or purchases even a small interest of heirs’ property can potentially force other owners to sell against their will, often for well below fair market value.
This type of ownership is common in North Carolina. As many as 86.5 million acres worth $1.86 billion in North Carolina is estimated to be under heirs’ property ownership today. Although no one is immune to the vulnerability of losing their land to a forced partition action, this issue disproportionately impacts Black, Indigenous, and People of Color throughout North Carolina. We continue to seek innovative solutions to address these inequities.
A Legislative Solution: The Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act
Enacting the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act (UPHPA) in North Carolina will address how current state laws leave landowners of heirs’ property vulnerable to involuntary land loss. The Act safeguards these families from forced sales and allows access to beneficial funding and aid programs, including FEMA disaster recovery and the USDA Farm Bill.
We believe that the UPHPA provides substantial benefits and safeguards to North Carolina families. Joined by conservation organizations, land trusts, family farmland preservation advocates, NC Realtors, members of the NC Bar Association and academic scholars, we are building strong bipartisan support to adopt legislation that protects North Carolina families. The model UPHPA legislation has been enacted by 17 states, strengthening due process for family landowners in Virginia, South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and elsewhere.
We believe North Carolina should be next to better protect heirs’ property rights.
There is strong bipartisan support for the legislation in North Carolina. However, we may need you to advocate for conservation issues and policies impacting North Carolina communities.
CTNC is joined in this effort by members of the NC Heirs Property Coalition including Audubon North Carolina, The Conservation Fund, The Black Family Land Trust, Inc., Triangle Land Conservancy, American Forest Foundation African American Land Retention Project, Roanoke Electric Cooperative, NC realtors, members of the NC Bar Association, and academic scholars.