Conserv. Biol. (2019).

Protecting forests and wildlands is an important strategy for mitigating climate change, as well as providing clean air and water, recreation and forest products. However, land protection by definition limits extensive resource extraction and the conversion of land to commercial and residential use, and consequently faces opposition due to a perceived incompatibility with local economic growth.

Credit: James M. Hunt / Alamy Stock Photo

Katharine Sims, of Amherst College, United States, and Jonathan Thompson, of Harvard University, United States, and co-authors investigate the local impacts of land protection on economic activity in 1,501 New England towns and cities, spanning a 25-year period from 1990–2015. Using a quasi-experimental impact-evaluation approach, they find that land protection led to a small, but statistically significant increase in employment and the size of the labour force. The employment gains are likely attributable to a growth in recreation-based jobs and local amenity values. Notably, public and private protection had positive impacts on employment, suggesting possible economic benefits from employing a mix of conservation efforts.