Defenders of Wildlife

NOVEMBER 29, 2006
9:57 AM

CONTACT:  Defenders of Wildlife
Deborah Bagocius (202) 772-0239

Conservationists Can Use Economic Studies to Promote Land Conservation Instead of Sprawl

WASHINGTON - November 29 A new report released today by Defenders of Wildlife shows that conservationists can fight sprawl and promote land conservation by demonstrating the economic value that comes from natural lands.

The report, "Assessing the Wealth of Nature," inventories economic benefits assessments, illustrates how they were used in local land use planning, and provides a starting place for conservationists interested in conducting their own assessments.

"There is no need to reinvent the wheel this report is a good starting place for conservationists and growth management advocates interested in making economic arguments for habitat conservation," said Laura Watchman, senior manager of land use programs at Defenders of Wildlife.

The report is a collaborative effort with Resources for the Future and Island Press. It presents success stories, provides guidelines for conservationists, and includes a table that summarizes various economic studies.

"By arming themselves with good economic studies and communicating the results effectively, conservationists can show leaders and decision-makers that land conservation is good fiscal policy," the report finds.

For example, a study by the University of Florida found the economic benefits from natural lands in rapidly developing northeast Florida are worth approximately $2.6 billion a year. The value comes from agricultural activities, recreation-related activities and aesthetic amenities.

"There is a growing body of literature that shows that sprawl is much more expensive to communities than compact development combined with land conservation," Watchman said. "By focusing on the benefits of biodiversity conservation in urbanizing landscapes, this report is a unique contribution to that literature."

The report summarizes eight studies in the West; six in the Midwest; five in the Northeast and five in the Southeast.

The report is available at