Conservation Economics

The Conservation Finance program at Highstead aims to grow the pool of available funding for land conservation by attaining support from non-traditional conservation partners. The team uses research and real-world experience to communicate the economic value of land conservation and refute claims of negative impacts, to facilitate new funding streams for land conservation.

Several projects are underway to further this work, including Issue Briefs, which provide an in-depth look at the economic benefits of land conservation in New England.  

To further convey the message of this research, Highstead has developed case studies focused on telling the real-life stories of land conservation and economic development. These first-hand accounts of the impact land protection projects have had on local communities provide relatable examples, full of information and anecdotes, to assist our partners in communicating and engaging with decision-makers and the general public to promote further support for land conservation. Highstead plans to expand this series of case studies to cover all six New England states and its many landscapes both rural and urban.

Issue Briefs

Conservation for Communities: A Fiscal Case for Municipal Investment in Conservation — Communities benefit economically from public and private conservation efforts, bolstering community vitality and supporting local economies. Protecting New England’s Forests — Forests provide myriad benefits to people and wildlife and investing in forest conservation protects our water and air quality, leads to healthier lifestyles, and supports a more resilient landscape in the face of climate challenges.
Landscapes That Work — Forestry and agriculture contribute more than $50 billion to the New England economy; prioritizing conservation of forests and farmland means an investment in the future of natural resource-based communities. Think Outside! New England’s Outdoor Recreation - Investments in land conservation mean investments in outdoor tourism and recreation-related business, while protecting the natural assets that sustain our communities.
NRCS Brief - The Role of NRCS Funding in Forwarding New England’s Conservation Vision: How the RCPP and CIG programs are advancing Wildlands and Woodlands.    

Community Conservation Economics Case Studies


Overview — Three case studies demonstrate how conserved land can save jobs, draw new visitors and residents, and bring communities together. This growing series provides on-the-ground stories of the ripple effect that community conservation can have on local economies across New England.

Grand Lake Stream, ME — When public access to local private lands was threatened in Grand Lake Stream, ME, a community forest was created, resulting in the protection of 600-900 jobs in the paper industry, increased wood fiber supplies, and guaranteed access for recreation guides, summer camps, and the lodging industry.  


Bethel, ME - Following economic shifts in the 1980s, the town of Bethel, ME focused its conservation efforts on protecting land that connects to a larger ribbon of conserved forestland, attracting the attention of new residents and visitors, as well as the 500,000 people that flock to nearby Sunday River ski resort annually.


Stamford, CT - During a building boom in the 1990s, Mill River Park was created in Downtown Stamford, CT, attracting an economic revitalization of new businesses, and providing green space, healthy recreation opportunities, and diverse programming for residents of all backgrounds.