Saturday, August 9, 2014

Conservation rentals

The Nature Conservancy and other land trusts promote conservation by buying land that provides a number of ecosystem services and/ or is habitat for species of interest. In the Nature Conservancy's most recent magazine there's an article about a new approach: land rentals for conservation. In particular, migratory birds need places to land while they're traveling. After identifying key places for bird stopovers, the Conservancy paid some rice farmers to keep their fields flooded in the off-season. I had heard of something similar before, in which California rice fields were flooded to attract ducks for hunters, but now it seems they're trying to time it right and keep an eye out to see whether the temporary habitat helps rarer birds on their way. There's a fair amount of economics behind it: it's tough to find the right level of payment to minimize Conservancy expenditures and maximize the level of quality land provided to the birds. Fortunately there are economists with more skill in this than I have who can help the Conservancy figure out how to do this best!

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