The growth of easements as a conservation tool

Isla S. Fishburn, Peter Kareiva, Kevin J. Gaston, Paul R. Armsworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The numerous studies examining where efforts to conserve biodiversity should be targeted are not matched by comparable research efforts addressing how conservation investments should be structured and what balance of conservation approaches works best in what contexts. An obvious starting point is to examine the past allocation of effort among conservation approaches and how this has evolved. Methodology/Principal Findings: We examine the past allocation of conservation investment between conservation easements and fee simple acquisitions using the largest land trust in operation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), as a case study. We analyse the balance of investments across the whole of the US and in individual states when measured in terms of the area protected and upfront cost of protecting land. Conclusions/Significance: Across the US as a whole, the proportion of conservation investment allocated to easements is growing exponentially. Already 70% of the area of land protected in a given year, and half of all the financial investment in land conservation, is allocated to easements. The growth rate of conservation easements varies by a factor of two across states when measured in terms of the area protected and by a factor of three in terms of financial expenditure. Yet, we were unable to find consistent predictors that explained this variation. Our results underscore the urgency of implementing best practice guidelines for designing easements and of initiating a wider discussion of what balance of conservation approaches is desirable.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere4996
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2009
Externally publishedYes

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