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‘Targeting Conservation Easement Purchases to Benefit Wildlife’ Published

November 4, 2015

A new publication that seeks to inform how conservation easements are purchased is now available from the University of Wyoming’s Wyoming Open Spaces Initiative.

“Targeting Conservation Easement Purchases to Benefit Wildlife” offers a new approach to help conservation buyers better target conservation easements to achieve the maximum benefit for wildlife.

A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement in which a private landowner sells a property’s development rights to a land trust or other buyer to keep the property from being subdivided or otherwise developed. Typically, when deciding where to purchase easements, conservation buyers use an approach based on simple cost-effectiveness to determine which easements will generate the greatest ecological benefit per dollar. The strategic targeting method introduced in this new publication factors in a property’s development potential to target properties at high risk of being developed.

“A property at high risk of being developed may be a better conservation investment than a less expensive property at low risk of development,” says the report’s lead author, Benjamin Rashford. Other authors are researchers Matthew Hayes, Hall Sawyer and Abigail Scott.

Applying the method to the case of the Red Desert-to-Hoback mule deer migration corridor in western Wyoming, the publication demonstrates how strategic targeting can be used to assist conservation buyers in their search for the best locations to invest limited conservation dollars. By contemplating the tradeoffs among benefits, development potential and costs for each prospective easement, the approach helps focus conservation investments where they will ensure the most protection. 

“This publication can help land trusts, planners and others get the most bang for their buck when spending limited conservation dollars on easements,” says UW Ruckelshaus Institute Director Nicole Korfanta.

The Wyoming Open Spaces Initiative is a collaborative effort of the Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center, the Department of Agriculture and Applied Economics, the Department of Geography, UW Extension and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database. The initiative supports Wyoming citizens’ conservation of open spaces through research, information, education and decision-making assistance. The initiative considers agricultural sustainability, community planning and development, wildlife and other related cultural, economic and environmental issues of importance in Wyoming.

Download the publication at or request a hard copy at or by calling (307) 766-5146.

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