Jessica Owley, UB associate professor of law.
We asked Jessica Owley, UB associate professor of law, to tell
us about her work in, and thoughts on sustainability.
What kinds of sustainability related research/projects do you
pursue at UB?
My current research focuses on land conservation. Specifically,
I have been examining different legal tools for protecting private
lands. Are there ways that we can promote sustainability and
protect ecosystem health on private lands? Conservationists have
been searching for tools that enable long-term land protection
without requiring purchase of lands. These tools (types of
servitudes in legal parlance) generally purport to be perpetual. I
am looking at what happens to these perpetual encumbrances when
climate change leads to landscape change. Currently, private land
use restrictions are written with today’s landscape in mind.
They do not account for changes to the land. My research examines
what happens when those changes occur and how conservationists can
plan for change in ways that still yield environmental benefits.
With a colleague from Albany Law School, I am also spearheading a
project called the Environmental Law Collaborative that has
gathered legal academics across the United States to discuss how
idea and role of sustainability in an age of climate change. The
writings from this group are being widely published and discussed
and hopefully will push the approaches we take to environmental law
and land use planning.
How are students involved in your sustainability
Students get involved in my work in two main ways. First, I
periodically hold land conservation seminars where students take
part in gathering data about climate change and legal institutions.
The students use this data for their own research projects –
often papers we circulate to conservation organizations. My
research team uses the data for our work as well. Second, I always
have 2-3 research assistants working with me from both within the
law school and from other departments. I always have a place for
students interested in doing sustainability work.
What are you doing to help UB become more
As a member of the Corps environmental law faculty, I work with
my colleagues to ensure that we have a full variety of useful and
stimulating environmental law course offerings. I open up all of my
classes to graduate students from all departments in an effort to
expand our sustainability discussions on campus. I also serve on
the SUNY Buffalo Law School Sustainability Team. We are working to
make the day to day practices in the law school more sustainable.
We are currently working with the UB Sustainability office to audit
the law school’s current practices so that we can take the
next step and improve our sustainability.