Study Finds That Land Conservation Has Huge Benefits for Locals, Visitors, and the Economy

Throughout the pandemic, many of us have found ourselves getting rejuvenated in the outdoors. That has served as a reminder of how important these areas are to our mental health, our physical health, and our happiness. A new study says they’re also good for our wallets.

The North Olympic Land Trust and Jefferson Land Trust teamed up to analyze the impact of forest, farm, trail, and parkland conservation along the North Olympic Peninsula in Washington. What they found were benefits to employment, carbon removal, property values, outdoor recreation, and visitors.

David Patton, northwest regional director for the Trust for Public Land, says, “Conservation on the North Olympic Peninsula helps communities meet a triple bottom line by generating money for local businesses through tourism, improving the natural environment, and preserving farming and forestry jobs.”

PHOTO: PIXABAY/ARTODIDACT

The analysis found that the forest industry in the area contributes 1,440 jobs worth $92.1 million in wages. Farms in the region also generate about $29.4 million in agricultural products each year. Homes near conservation sites have higher property values due to people being willing to pay more to be close to them. The homes are worth an estimated $616 million more as a result, and they boost property tax revenue by $6.11 million annually.

It’s not just jobs and homes. Trees on conserved lands were found to store $4.23 billion of carbon and draw back $168 million in carbon each year. Along with shrubs, they also remove air pollutants that can impact human health and damage property. They reduce pollution control costs by $25.8 million per year.

In addition, visitors enjoying the area bring an estimated $306 million in direct spending, while locals spend $33.1 million on sports, recreation, and exercise equipment.

PHOTO: PIXABAY/ROGER MOSLEY

The analysis was completed during the winter of 2020, as the world struggled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report reads, “Nationally, the global pandemic has underscored that access to conserved lands, trails, and parks is crucial to quality of life. During this crisis, people have turned to these spaces like never before—for fresh air, exercise, meditation, a sense of peace. Research shows that conservation and parkland are, indeed, a potent force for our well-being: numerous scientific studies show the benefits of nature for both physical and mental health.”

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In another report, the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office said that throughout the entire state, outdoor trip-related spending adds up to $18.8 billion each year, with $7.7 billion spent on outdoor recreation gear, equipment, and repair services. The spending supports more than a quarter of a million jobs.

Of course, it’s not just one state that sees benefits like this. It’s a similar situation across the country.

PHOTO: PIXABAY/TERI COMROE

Jennifer Plowden, senior conservation economist at the Trust for Public Land and the report’s lead author, says, “The Trust for Public Land has measured the economic benefits of conserved lands, trails, and parks in dozens of communities across the country. The results show that these special places are not just nice-to-have amenities, but in fact are critical resources that safeguard the economic health of the communities on the Peninsula.”

The trust has done similar studies in more than 50 communities in the country, across 27 states.

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