Assessing the ecological and social benefits of private land conservation in Colorado.

Abstract

Conservation of private land through conservation easements, development agreements, and clustered housing has increased greatly as have criticisms of the laws, public programs, and incentives that motivate landowners to use them. Rapid land-use change at the urban-rural interface in Larimer County, Colorado, has given rise to programs that provide a variety of land-conservation options for landowners. As of January 2005, roughly 60% of Larimer County was publicly owned, and 3% or 16,200 ha was privately owned with some form of protection. We used document analysis, a landowner survey, targeted interviews, and a landscape-level spatial analysis to analyze the patterns, quantities, and qualities of private land conservation. We created a jurisdiction-specific typology of desired benefits from local government-planning documents to help evaluate conservation parcels. Most easements and other conservation documents used general terms and did not describe the site-specific values of the land being conserved. Landowners were able to describe some benefits not included in parcel-specific documents, and our spatial analysis revealed parcel-specific and cumulative conservation benefits such as the amount of buffering, infill, connectivity, protected agricultural land, riparian protection, and other benefits not referenced by either documents or landowners. Conservation benefits provided by a parcel varied depending on its geographic location, the specific institution such as a land trust or open space program that a landowner worked with, and the conservation mechanism used, such as voluntary easement or residential clustering requirements. The methods we used provide a template for jurisdictions wishing to undertake a similar analysis. Our findings may assist other jurisdictions and institutions interested in improving how land-conservation benefits are described; justify and inform future investments in private land conservation; assist local governments and other institutions with the assessment of program effectiveness; and be useful for conservation planners who wish to become more involved in on-the-ground implementation of conservation actions.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.00895.x

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Cite this paper

@article{Wallace2008AssessingTE, title={Assessing the ecological and social benefits of private land conservation in Colorado.}, author={George N Wallace and David M. Theobald and Tawnya Ernst and Katherine King}, journal={Conservation biology : the journal of the Society for Conservation Biology}, year={2008}, volume={22 2}, pages={284-96} }