Land acquisition is the process of purchasing or expropriating land with the primary purpose of protecting the public interest.1 For example, land may be acquired to prevent development to hold it in public ownership for environmental protection purposes.1 As a sea-level rise adaptation strategy, land acquisition provides protection against the development of land that can contribute to coastal protection. For example, land can be acquired to protect beaches and sand dunes that protect shorelines against erosion and extreme storm events. 8 The process for land acquisition could be stymied by a lack of political and financial support because the expropriation of land can be contentious and expensive.2

How it works

Types of land acquisition

  • Acquisition by donation occurs where land or interest in land is acquired by donation. The procedures through which land is acquired by donation are similar to those for acquisition by purchase with some exceptions.
  • Acquisition by exchange transfers title of two separate parcels through a combination of acquisition and disposal action.
  • Acquisition by transfer occurs where the jurisdiction over land is transferred from one jurisdiction to another. Both receiving and granting agencies must document the transfer of management authority in addition to adjusting the land inventory and financial records 9
  • Expropriation refers to the legal process through which a government or agency operating in the public interest acquires land for the benefit of the public.


  • Promotes the protection of natural resources through hazard mitigation
  • Complements strategies found in existing community plans related to land use, open space preservation, hazard mitigation, and floodplain management.
  • Serves as a long-term protection strategy compared to strategies that offer shorter-term protection or that may be changed over time.
  • Removes sensitive land from the pressure of built development. 10


  • Maybe stymied because of a lack of political will, community support, and financial resources
  • Acquisition of land may require coordinating and resolving regulatory and administrative procedures and processes. This requirement for coordination could slow down the process.
  • An acquisition may be subject to easements that stipulate how the land is to be utilized and maintained including requirements that allow specific mitigation activity to be undertaken on the land in areas prone to natural hazard 11

Example projects

Blue Acres Buyout Program


In 2013, the Superstorm Sandy Blue Acres Program was launched as a response to the catastrophic damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. Under the program, 1,300 properties in tidal areas and towns that are prone to flooding were purchased for $300 million.4 The properties that were purchased were demolished to allow space for natural buffers and future recreational activities, conservation, and flood protection.5 The program is currently active in 14 municipalities and work continues with local officials to expand the program to other coastal communities.6

Bas-Saint-Laurent Land Acquisition

Bas-Saint-Laurent QB, Canada

In 2010, the Province of Quebec acquired and relocated 100 homes that were destroyed in a storm. The acquired properties were then sold to the Bas-Saint-Laurent municipality as a way of gaining control of the land and preventing future development.7 As a response to the relocation of the people, the municipality created new residential development further inland. A total of $5.5 million was provided by the provincial government of Quebec to support the relocation program.8


  1. 1.

    The Arlington Group Planning Architecture Inc., et al. Sea Level Rise Adaptation Primer. pp. 50.

  2. 2.

    Ibid, 51.

  3. 3.

    “Blue Acres Buyout Program.” ReNEW Jersey Stronger - Rebuilding a Lasting Foundation,

  4. 4.


  5. 5.

    “Christie Administration Marks 500th Blue Acres Demolition with Removal of House Along Delaware Bay.” NJDEP, 11 Dec. 2017,

  6. 6., Zone Politique -. “Québec Indemnisera Des Victimes Des Changements Climatiques Au Bas-Saint-Laurent.” Radio,,

  7. 7.


  8. 8.

    Epanchin-Niell et al. (2017). Investing in Coastal Protected Lands under Threat from Sea-Level Rise.

  9. 9.

    Fourchalk, D. (2012). Land acquisition for capital projects. Canadian property valuation magazine.

  10. 10.

    Anonymous. (n.d). Land Acquisition guidelines. Reclamation lands handbook.

  11. 11.

    Larimer County. (2016). Land use tools. Land acquisition. Planning for Hazards.

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