Conservation Economics

The Trust for Public Land's Conservation Economics service measures and analyzes the economic benefits and fiscal impacts of land conservation. Our studies have shown that conservation returns from $4 to $10 for every dollar invested. It also provides recreational opportunities, controls flooding, and protects air and drinking water quality, wildlife habitat, and farms while supporting industries such as tourism, agriculture, and fisheries. With our help, communities are able to quantify the economic value of these benefits.

We determine the economic impact of investments in parks and open space in three ways:

      • Measure the economic and fiscal value of land conserved through existing programs
      • Analyze the economic and fiscal effectiveness of conservation programs and achievement of program goals
      • Forecast the economic benefits and fiscal impacts of a new program

            Case Studies

            In 2009, legislative support for the state’s conservation easement tax credit program was at risk. TPL studied the contribution of conservation easements to the state’s economy and estimated that the easements generate a 6:1 return on investment. The results helped lawmakers reach a favorable compromise to keep the tax credit program in place. Read report

            New Jersey
            In 2009, conservationists feared a statewide bond measure would not make it to the ballot. The bond was aimed at renewing funding for the state’s Green Acres and Farmland Preservation programs. TPL’s analysis of the future benefits of the land conservation bond projected a 10:1 return on the public’s investment. The results reinforced legislative support for the $400 million bond measure and voters approved it. 

            New York
            In 2008, county and municipal governments were considering raids on existing land conservation funding as a way to fill budget deficits. TPL estimated the economic benefits of parks and open space in Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York to be $2.74 billion annually. Additionally, TPL found that protecting parks and open space is eight times less costly to local governments than traditional residential development. The results have helped protect these existing local land conservation fund. Read report