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Spatial Targeting Strategies For Land Conservation


  • Newburn, David A.
  • Berck, Peter
  • Merenlender, Adina


Purchasing development rights is a major mechanism for the protection of environmental quality and landscape amenities. This paper provides a targeting strategy for protecting multiple environmental benefits that takes into account land costs and probability of land use conversion. We compare two strategies. Subject to a budget constraint on parcel purchases, the standard strategy is to target parcels with the highest ratio of environmental benefits to land costs. The standard strategy selects parcels even if there is little probability that the parcel would otherwise be converted. Our new strategy targets parcels to minimize the benefit loss from land conversion, which weights parcel based on initial benefit endowment and expected probability of land use conversion. The empirical analysis focuses on targeting conservation easements in the exurban region of Sonoma County, CA, in which extensively-managed, developable parcels (i.e. pasture and forest areas) with environmental benefits are being converted to residential use and vineyards. Spatially-explicit modeling approaches are employed to estimate land values and likelihood of land use conversion, according to heterogeneous parcel site characteristics, for all developable parcels. Our results indicate that benefit-cost targeting is biased toward low cost parcels, since it ignores the variation in likelihood of future land use conversion. This inefficiency for benefit-cost targeting arises from the positive relationship that typically exists between likelihood of land use change and value of development rights. Hence, some parcels with poor land quality or remote accessibility to urban centers would have de facto conservation, and therefore do not warrant targeting of conservation funds, despite the low cost of protection. Our new targeting strategy balances the countervailing factors of land values and likelihood of land use conversion.

Suggested Citation

  • Newburn, David A. & Berck, Peter & Merenlender, Adina, 2004. "Spatial Targeting Strategies For Land Conservation," 2004 Annual meeting, August 1-4, Denver, CO 20206, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea04:20206

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    1. Wu, JunJie & Zilberman, David & Babcock, Bruce A., 2001. "Environmental and Distributional Impacts of Conservation Targeting Strategies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 333-350, May.
    2. Just, Richard E & Antle, John M, 1990. "Interactions between Agricultural and Environmental Policies: A Conceptual Framework," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(2), pages 197-202, May.
    3. Nancy E. Bockstael, 1996. "Modeling Economics and Ecology: The Importance of a Spatial Perspective," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1168-1180.
    4. Costello, Christopher & Polasky, Stephen, 2004. "Dynamic reserve site selection," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 157-174, June.
    5. JunJie Wu, 2000. "Slippage Effects of the Conservation Reserve Program," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(4), pages 979-992.
    6. Babcock, Bruce A. & Lakshminarayan, P. G. & Wu, J. & Zilberman, David, 1997. "Targeting Tools for the Purchase of Environmental Amenities," Staff General Research Papers Archive 5220, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    7. Babcock, Bruce A. & Lakshminarayan, P. G. & Wu, JunJie & Zilberman, David, 1996. "Economics of a Public Fund for Environmental Amenities (The)," Staff General Research Papers Archive 1065, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    8. Bell, Kathleen P. & Irwin, Elena G., 2002. "Spatially explicit micro-level modelling of land use change at the rural-urban interface," Agricultural Economics of Agricultural Economists, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 27(3), November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lewis, David J., 2010. "An economic framework for forecasting land-use and ecosystem change," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 98-116, April.
    2. Garth Holloway & Donald Lacombe & James P. LeSage, 2007. "Spatial Econometric Issues for Bio-Economic and Land-Use Modelling," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(3), pages 549-588, September.
    3. Kathleen P. Bell & Timothy J. Dalton, 2007. "Spatial Economic Analysis in Data-Rich Environments," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 58(3), pages 487-501, September.
    4. Thomas Coisnon & Walid Oueslati & Julien Salanié, 2013. "Spatial targeting of agri-environmental policy and urban development," Post-Print halshs-00949730, HAL.
    5. Zhang, Wendong & Irwin, Elena G., 2013. "From Farmers' Management Decisions to Watershed Water Quality: A Spatial Economic Model of Land Management Choices," 2013 Annual Meeting, August 4-6, 2013, Washington, D.C. 150729, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Suter, Jordan F. & Conrad, Jon M. & Gomes, Carla P. & van Hoeve, Willem Jan & Sabharwal, Ashish, 2008. "Optimal Corridor Design for Grizzly Bear in the U.S. Northern Rockies," 2008 Annual Meeting, July 27-29, 2008, Orlando, Florida 6207, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    7. Jean-Sauveur Ay & Jean-Marc Brayer & Jean Cavailhès & Pierre Curmi & Mohamed Hilal & Marjorie Ubertosi, 2012. "La valeur des attributs naturels des terres agricoles de Côte-d'Or," INRA UMR CESAER Working Papers 2012/1, INRA UMR CESAER, Centre d'’Economie et Sociologie appliquées à l'’Agriculture et aux Espaces Ruraux.
    8. Boyd, James & Epanchin-Niell, Rebecca & Siikamaki, Juha, 2012. "Conservation Return on Investment Analysis: A Review of Results, Methods, and New Directions," Discussion Papers dp-12-01, Resources For the Future.
    9. Baylis, Katherine R. & Paulson, Nicholas D. & Piras, Gianfranco, 2011. "Spatial Approaches to Panel Data in Agricultural Economics: A Climate Change Application," Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Southern Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 43(03), August.

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