Discussion Paper

The Law and Economics of Habitat Conservation: Lessons from an Analysis of Easement Acquisitions

Apr 1, 1999 | James W. Boyd, Kathryn Caballero, R. David Simpson


There is a growing interest in incentive-based policies to motivate conservation by landowners. These policies include full- and partial-interest land purchases, tax-based incentives, and tradable or bankable development rights. Using legal and economic analysis, this paper explores potential pitfalls associated with the use of such policies. Incentive-based policies promise to improve the cost effectiveness of habitat preservation, but only if long-run implementation issues are meaningfully addressed. While the paper compares conservation policies, particular attention is devoted to the use of conservation easements and in particular a set of easement contracts and transactions in the state of Florida. The easement analysis highlights the importance of conservation policies' interactions with property markets, land management practices, and bureaucratic incentives. Specific challenges include difficulties associated with the long-term enforcement and monitoring of land use restrictions, the lack of market prices as indicators of value for appraisal, and the way in which incentives target specific properties for protection.