Midwest Region
Conserving the Nature of America

The Economics of Conservation

 Juvenile Higgins' eye pearlymussel growing within mobile rearing unit. Bright ring along each mussels’ edge shows growth from this year. USFWS photo.
Native prairie grasslands meet agricultural lands. U.S. Geological Survey photo.

William Gascoigne with the U.S. Geological Survey is investigating the economic contribution of conserved habitat lands to the economy in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) of the U.S. His research shines a light on the linkages between landscape conditions and conditions within surrounding rural communities; linkages that are not always that apparent. This research context has been relatively understudied in the natural resources field, but has emerged due to the current economic climate and competing land uses in the PPR.

The question his research aims to address - how does investing in landscape conservation impact rural economies now and in the future? The study, which received funding from the Plains and Prairie Pothole Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) in 2011, is breaking ground by illustrating the “socioeconomics” of wildlife conservation, particularly in rural communities heavily dominated by agriculture. It will analyze the dollar value of specific conservation actions by drawing parallels to the value of outdoor recreation, a storied pastime in the dwindling hunting and fishing communities of the PPR, while considering the value of agricultural interests.

Hunters and anglers traditionally have been poised to support habitat restoration and species management efforts because of their direct connection to the landscape. With fewer hunters and anglers relative to the growing human population, natural resource managers increasingly look to the agricultural community for collaboration and support to maximize habitat quality and achieve other landscape natural resources objectives, while keeping agricultural values intact. The results of Gascoigne’s research can ultimately be used at the local level by natural resource managers and local agricultural interests to inform on the ground conservation and land use activities to maximize landscape conservation objectives.

The Plains and Prairie Potholes Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) is dedicated to the conservation of a landscape unparalleled in importance to a vast array of unique species whose populations are in steep decline. The partnership is poised to provide science needs from the perspective of land, resource and conservation decision making, and, provide support to partners to carry out impactful conservation actions across the prairie pothole region, northern Great Plains and riparian corridors of the Missouri, Yellowstone and northern Red Rivers. For more information, visit http://www.plainsandprairiepotholeslcc.org/.

Last updated: June 15, 2016