Protect Land, Create Jobs: Economic Development and Land Conservation

I’m eagerly anticipating an upcoming vacation to Maine where we regularly hike, paddle, and just hang out on lands protected by groups such as the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and the Great Pond Mountain Conservation Trust.  I’ve always appreciated these protected lands for their natural beauty, but they’re also an important contributor to new job creation and economic development.  That’s the key finding of new study (reported in The Conversation) that assessed the impact of land trusts and land preservation across New England over the past 25 years.   Land trusts are a big deal in New England, and, over the past few decades, they have preserved more than five million acres.  But, they can be controversial and are often opposed due to their perceived limitations on resource use. But, this research finds that land preservation can often produce better economic outcomes, finding that communities with higher levels of land protection also had higher employment numbers. And, these impacts were even stronger in the most rural areas.  How does this work?  The protected lands support the creation of new jobs in recreational tourism and sustainable resource extraction, while also creating more attractive communities to live, work, and play.  Lots of groups around the US, such as the Northern Forest Center, the Conservation Fund, Pennsylvania Wilds and Heart of Appalachia are out spreading this message that land conservation and economic development can and do go hand in hand.