Spatial distribution of conservation easements in the United States: drivers and implications

Authors: Paige Ramsey*, New Mexico State University, Michaela Buenemann, New Mexico State University, Jack Wright, New Mexico State University
Topics: Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: conservation easement, land trust, land management, GIS
Session Type: Poster
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Napoleon Foyer/Common St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: Download


Conservation easements allow private land owners to protect their land from development in perpetuity. However, our understanding of where conservation easements occur in the United States and why is limited, hampering the ability of land trusts to better target specific groups of people for the purpose of establishing new conservation easements. To address this issue, our objectives were to characterize, explain, and predict the current spatial distribution of conservation easements in the United States. To meet these objectives, we mapped and modeled the distribution of conservation easements by integrating a diversity of human (e.g., economics and politics) and environmental (e.g., climate and land cover) explanatory variables in ordinary least squares and geographically weighted regression frameworks. Our results indicate that there are hot spots of conservation easements in California, the Rocky Mountains, and along the central and northern East Coast; conversely, there are cold spots of conservation easements in the Great Basin, the Great Plains, and the Upper Midwest. Vermont has the highest percent of private land protected by conservation easement at 10.79% and North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oklahoma have the lowest at 0%. The average percentage of private land preserved by conservation easement nationwide is 1.45%. Moreover, our findings suggest that human variables are stronger predictors of conservation easements than environmental variables. In particular, conservation easements are more likely in states with higher income, higher education levels, and democratic tendencies than states with lower income, lower education levels, and republican tendencies.

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