August 14, 2018
Conservation easements provide broad public benefits for Wyoming communities, according to a new report from the Wyoming Open Space Initiative at UW. (Shutterstock Photo)
New research from the Wyoming Open Spaces Initiative at the University of Wyoming shows that public investment in private lands conservation yields broad economic benefits for Wyoming communities.
The report, “Wyoming Conservation Easements: Lands, Services, and Economic Benefits,” finds that the values derived from conservation easements on private lands flow across property boundaries to generate a host of public benefits. Easements also offer greater protection of wildlife habitat, fisheries and water quality than would be expected by land cover alone.
Conservation easements are widely recognized for protecting the open spaces provided by working farms and ranches throughout the West, but they can require substantial public investment. To determine how public investment in conservation easements contributes to conservation statewide, researchers from the Wyoming Stock Growers Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming, and the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources at UW collaborated on the project.
The team first mapped conservation easements in Wyoming and the types of lands and services they protect, including open spaces that support wildlife populations, recreational fishing, drinking water sources and other economically important services in Wyoming.
They found that, although easements comprise just a small fraction of the state’s total land base, they contribute significantly to conservation in Wyoming while also yielding broader economic benefits for the public. For example:
— Despite occupying just 1 percent of the state’s total land area, conservation easements protect 11 percent of the state’s blue-ribbon trout fisheries, as well as several sensitive drinking water sources. Anglers spend an average of $126 per day on trip-related expenses.
— Conservation easements also overlap with large areas of vital wildlife habitat, such as big-game crucial winter range and migration …