About

Ms. Jay's conservation practice is devoted to ensuring the permanence of conservation through sound land conservation transactions and the defense and enforcement of perpetual conservation easements. She represents and partners with land trusts, government entities, and landowners to conserve working landscapes and environmentally significant properties in Colorado and the Rocky Mountain West. She actively engages conservation professionals, land trusts, and landowners in conservation workshops, and guides the next generation of land conservationists through her conservation law courses at the Vermont Law School, and the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law.

Ms. Jay is happy to confer with you by phone or in person for a free consultation.

Ms. Jay represents landowners and easement holders in land conservation transactions and specializes in ensuring that easement donors benefit from local, state, and federal tax incentives for land conservation and that land is protected with a perpetual, durable, and defensible deed of conservation easement. She is general counsel for and represents several prominent easement holders in Colorado, including the Aspen Valley Land Trust and Colorado Open Lands, and has facilitated numerous successful and enduring conservation transactions over her twenty-year career in land conservation law.  Ms. Jay guides conservation easement drafting, defense, enforcement, and stewardship to ensure the permanence of conservation easements, and publishes extensively on land conservation law topics.  She also promotes thoughtful discussion of the same through her highly interactive presentations, workshops, and law courses.  Ms. Jay's seminal research and publication of approaches to land trust risk management nearly two decades ago provided the impetus for creation of the Terrafirma Risk Retention Group LLC insurance service, led and designed by the Land Trust Alliance to provide defense and enforcement resources for land trusts owning land and holding perpetual conservation easements. 

Insuring Permanence in Land Conservation (literally!)

Terrafirma Insurance Press Release

The birth of Terrafirma is an historic moment for land conservation and is a creative response to a big national problem. In the late 1990s, Colorado Open Lands staff starting asking a question that ultimately led to the creation of a new tool to help land trusts to protect their conserved lands forever.

How, they wondered, would they handle enforcement actions on their easements? “It wasn’t any particular problem we ran into,” recalls Dan Pike, with Colorado Open Lands. “We just started asking what we would do if we ever had to go to court on our easements. And honestly, we didn’t have a good answer.” Contributing to the sense of urgency was a well-publicized case in which the French and Pickering Conservation Trust had incurred $125,000 in legal fees defending an easement.

“It was scary” said Pike of the French and Pickering case, “Those numbers just shocked everybody.” Pike asked Jessica Jay, then a first-year associate at a Denver law firm, to research easement enforcement options. “I went into it looking for a silver bullet,” recalls Jay. “And I came back to Dan with 18 options, half of which involved insurance.” While Pike was less interested in insurance for Colorado Open Lands, Jay was captivated by the larger possibilities. “I realized that if land trusts approached the issue as a community we’d have a critical mass to create our own insurance - something that worked for land trusts and their unique needs.”  Jay’s report-published in 1999 -made the rounds of the land trust community . . . and the rest is history.

Looking to the New Frontiers in Land Conservation: Community Conservation, Redevelopment, and Undevelopment!

Like the mantra of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, Ms. Jay identifies the mantra for the new frontiers of land protection to be Conserve, Redevelop, and Undevelop. She anoints land trusts as the new social entrepreneurs shepherding the movement from large-scale, raw land protection to small-scale, community-based, interconnected re-purposing of land and its uses.

Jessica is currently collaborating with land trusts to: (1) work within and develop new legal, practical, and functional frameworks to conserve, create, and interconnect people and parcels of land for public parks, community gardens, cooperative farms, and public forests; (2) redevelop, re-imagine, and reinvent the already-built environment for new public purposes such as affordable housing, recreation, and community places; and (3) undevelop, recover, and restore developed, degraded, or polluted lands to support revitalized ecological and human systems. Jessica and several land trusts are also collaborating to provide financial, legal, and regulatory guidance for land trusts endeavoring projects on the new frontiers.

Current Projects, Research, and Guidance

Ms. Jay is currently researching how to inspire and incentivize new farmers' access to and use of conserved lands, and directing focus to what she has dubbed the New Frontiers of Land Conservation through Community Conservation, Redevelopment, and Undevelopment.  Jessica also guides conservation professionals, easement holders, and landowners in national workshops, and teaches the next generation of land conservationists in land conservation law courses at Vermont Law School and University of Denver's Sturm College of Law, for which courses she has authored the textbook, role play exercises, and distance learning course.

Practice, Teaching, and Education

Prior to founding her land conservation law firm, Ms. Jay practiced conservation, real estate, and environmental law with Isaacson, Rosenbaum P.C.; before that, she clerked for the honorable Peter H. Ney of the Colorado Court of Appeals.

Ms. Jay received her Juris Doctor (magna cum laude) and her Master of Studies in Environmental Law (summa cum laude) from the Vermont Law School, where she was the senior articles editor for the Vermont Law Review, a semi-finalist and member of the Debevoise Moot Court Board, and a Dean's Fellow teaching first year legal writing. She currently teaches Land Conservation Law at the Vermont Law School and the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. Ms. Jay received her undergraduate bachelor of arts from Bowdoin College, graduating magna cum laude with high honors in a coordinate major of government and environmental studies, and a minor in biology.