Investment in Nature Provides a Fourfold Return in Massachusetts

Every dollar Massachusetts spends on conservation returns $4 and supports jobs for hundreds of thousands of people, a study released Wednesday by The Trust for Public Land shows. View full report.

"These results showed conservation is an excellent investment and they are consistent with a dozen similar studies we have conducted across the nation in the past four years," said Jessica Sargent, senior economist with The Trust for Public Land and author of the report. "Over and over again, from Maine to Arizona, we see that spending money on conservation protects jobs and shows a good return on investment," she said.

Between 1998 and 2011, Massachusetts protected 131,000 acres of parks, beaches, wetlands, natural areas, and working farms and forests, Sargent said, and the state's grant programs leveraged an additional $118 million in money from other sources, including the federal and local governments, and private sources. The protected lands support jobs in a variety of industries, including, tourism and outdoor recreation, agriculture, forestry and commercial fishing.

"The Patrick Administration has protected over 110,000 acres of land and built over 170 parks – all of which is within a ten minute walk of approximately 25 percent of Massachusetts residents," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. "The Trust for Public Land's report demonstrates the tremendous economic value of this investment for residents, businesses and communities throughout the Commonwealth."

"This report helps to quantify the importance of land conservation. I am fortunate to represent people who understand the value of our beautiful landscapes and how necessary conservation is for future generations to continue to reap the benefits of sound environmental policy," said Rep. Anne Gobi (D-Spencer), house chairwoman to the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture.

Outdoor recreation provides an enormous boost to the state's economy generating $10 billion annually in consumer spending, and $739 million in tax revenue, while supporting approximately 90,000 jobs in the state, according to the report.

"The spirit of the conservation movement in America is imbedded in our heritage. It has its roots in protecting assets, our natural assets. Conservation, recreation and quality of life is simply good for business. What's good for business, drives economic growth," said Will Manzer, former chairman and current board member of the Outdoor Industry Association.

The report found that Massachusetts has about 7,700 farms covering 520,000 acres, with an annual output of $510 million in revenue. The Commonwealth also produces about 100 million board feet of timber each year. That generates an average $285 million in wood product revenues each year at the state's 166 forest product manufacturing facilities, including sawmills and paper mills.

"Investments in working forests are a proven win-win proposition with a big future upside," said Robert Perschel, Executive Director of the New England Forestry Foundation. "Forest landowners keep their lands in a natural condition, while jobs and careers are created and secured. Best of all, protected forest lands remain productive, yielding local, renewable, climate-friendly goods and services that are the cornerstones of a sustainable economy for Massachusetts."

In addition, land set aside to protect drinking water supplies surrounding the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs have saved Massachusetts Water Resource Authority customers an estimated $200 million in filtration plant construction and annual operating costs, according to the report.

"We have always known of the strong connection between the health of our economy and environment. Quantifying this return on investment provides tangible evidence of the value of public investment in protecting land – and the benefits to both people and nature that it provides," said Wayne Klockner, vice-president and state director for The Nature Conservancy in Massachusetts, one of the local organizations that provided support for this important study.

Massachusetts' success in creating new city and town parks is due to a strong collaborative effort between state agencies, local governments and nonprofit land conservation partner groups.

"I am proud that our investment in a healthy environment also has served as an investment in the health of Massachusetts' economy," said Senator Marc R. Pacheco (D-Taunton), Senate Chairman to the Joint Committee on Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture. "This study reaffirms our belief that when we protect our farms, forests, waterways, and wetlands, we green up the bottom line in the process."

For a full list of partners and data providers on this project, see the full report.

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $35 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year.