Conservation Return on Investment Analysis: Three Case Studies

An increasing number of conservation projects designed to address ecological management, protection, and restoration are being judged based on the investment returns they are able to produce. The costs, benefits, and risks of these projects can all be assessed using conservation return on investment (ROI) analysis, a method to help conservancies prioritize possible programs based […]

Should Coastal Communities Consider Transfers of Development Rights?

My colleague, Carolyn Kousky, recently wrote a post about “managed retreat” from the riskiest areas along our nation’s coastline—areas facing sea-level rise, as well as worsening storms and hurricanes. Her recommended three-part strategy includes limiting development in high-risk areas, adopting policies for “orderly” retreat as inundation occurs, and allowing for retreat after a disaster. All […]

Managing Shoreline Retreat in the United States: A Three-Part Strategy

Sea-level rise will increasingly threaten coastal communities. Responses to the issue have generally been grouped into three broad categories: protect, accommodate, and retreat. All three of these strategies will be needed and deployed to varying degrees around the United States. Highly developed areas—think New York City—will require some structural protection. Certain facilities that need to […]

A Tale of Two Parks (In One)

Without intending to, the team of civil servants that in 1990 created Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR) launched a forest conservation policy experiment. In an ecologically rich region where ranchers and farmers were illegally clearing forests at an astounding clip, they established a huge (two million hectare) protected area with two distinct management regimes—a core […]

Will Philanthropy Solve Park Funding Problems? Not Likely

State and local park system budgets have been slashed in recent years, leading many communities to turn their attentions toward philanthropy. Oftentimes, especially in large cities, the philanthropy works through park conservancies and other nonprofit organizations. In other cases, there is direct fundraising. The new crowdfunding movement, in which small monetary contributions are solicited from […]

Valuing Conservation in the Context of Climate Change

In the twentieth century, flooding caused more deaths and property damage in the United States than any other natural disaster. Most climate models predict that flooding will worsen in the future, a prospect that is leading a growing number of communities to explore the use of natural areas as protection against extreme events. These areas […]

Sourcing the Future of Wood Bioenergy

Some of the biggest bioenergy debates stem from a “food or fuel” problem, where agricultural lands have been devoted to growing grain as inputs for biofuels, at the cost of food production. According to a study by Searchinger et. al. of corn-based ethanol production, the large scale substitution  of corn ethanol over traditional fossil fuels […]

Looking for a Sustainable Funding Model for State Parks

Many state park systems are struggling. And in some states, the legislature is making matters worse. It is time to rethink the approach to financing parks and work toward a more sustainable and efficient long-term funding system. The Kansas City Star recently reported that the Kansas state legislature is proposing to rob Peter to pay […]

Climate-Ready Coastal Development? A Model from Pelican Bay, Florida

Americans love the coast.  We live there.  We vacation there.  Coastal areas generate substantial economic activity.  But building on the coast is risky—storms and sea level rise threaten coastal development.  Is there a model of development that allows us to enjoy all the ocean has to offer and yet reduces the risks from these hazards? […]

Responding to Natural Disasters—False Security or Damage Reduction?

Fire, floods, coastal storms, drought—the list of natural disasters that invoke billions in damage to communities and their economies is long and persistent. The tally of costs from Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast continues to mount, mirroring the multi-billion dollar price tags for other hurricane disasters. Yet, year after year, the US Army Corps of […]