RANGE OF POTENTIAL ANNUAL ECONOMIC RETURNS FROM
PROTECTING OPEN SPACE
The World Resources Institute ("WRI") completed its study entitled 'The Value of Conservation Easements: The Importance of Protecting Nature and Open Space" (the "Study") in April, 2002.
Extrapolating from the Study, we are able to illustrate a range of potential annual economic benefits to be gained by investing in conservation easements to protect open space.
Based on actual land conservation expenditures by various conservation organizations totaling more than $2.5 billion over the last fifteen years, it can be conservatively assumed that each acre protected with a Conservation Easement would cost on average $2,000, including a 10% set aside reserve for transaction and ongoing monitoring costs.
The WRI Study provides a summary of annual per acre ecosystem benefits for four categories of land from a variety of independent studies. The resulting range of these economic benefits by land type are as follows:
Using the average estimated acquisition cost of $2,000 per acre, if our nation invested dollars to buy easements to conserve or restore "Grass and Rangelands", the annual economic return would be just over 25% per acre; whereas if, at the other end of the spectrum, it used all of the dollars to protect the highest valued Wetlands, the potential annual economic benefit would provide annual returns of more than 43 times.
The greater probability, however, is that our nation would invest the available dollars across all four land categories and that the annual benefit would be close to an average of the mean values. Therefore, assuming an equal acreage allocation among each of the above four categories at an annual benefit approximating the mean values, the annual return from the estimated $2,000 per acre original investment would exceed $13,000. Thus, this one-time investment of $2,000 per acre would yield a 6.5x return in the first year, and this return would be the same or greater each and every year thereafter. Using these mid-range assumptions, a nationwide aggregate investment in conservation easements of $5 billion (protecting 2,500,000 acres) would, beginning at the end of the first year investment, produce annual ecosystems benefits exceeding $30 billion.
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