The conservation benefits of cost-effective land acquisition: a case study in Maryland

J Environ Manage. 2006 May;79(3):305-15. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2005.07.008. Epub 2005 Oct 25.


Economic theory asserts that to achieve maximum conservation benefits land acquisition needs to be cost effective. Yet the most common planning technique used by land conservation organizations is 'benefit-targeting' that focuses only on acquiring parcels with the highest benefits and ignores costs. Unlike most of the literature which focuses on covering problems, this research applies optimization techniques to achieve maximum aggregate conservation benefits for an ongoing land acquisition effort in the Catoctin Mountain Region in central Maryland. For this case study, optimization yields additional conservation benefits worth an estimated 3.1-3.9 million US dollars or achieves the same level of conservation benefits but at a cost savings ranging from 0.9 to 3.5 million US dollars, depending on the initial budget size. Finally, the highest efficiencies are achieved in low budget scenarios, like those most prevalent in conservation efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Budgets
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / economics*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Ecology
  • Maryland