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Conservation Toolbox

The challenge of maintaining working lands requires conservationists to increase the scale and impact of their efforts. To achieve this goal, a portfolio of tools and approaches is needed that meets diverse landowner objectives and ecological needs. In some cases, landowners need to extract as much economic benefit as possible from the underlying real estate value of a property, while in other cases, passing land to the next generation is a primary goal. On the ecological side, some conservation efforts are best pursued through permanent agreements while in other cases a conservation practice may only be needed during short windows, such as a critical migration or nesting period. A more diverse conservation toolbox can access a wider range of financial incentives and target conservation efforts where they are needed at different spatial and temporal scales.

Here we provide an overview of conservation tools and illustrate their use through specific examples.

Flowers in front of a house

Conservation Development

Conservation developments are a broad range of approaches to integrating conservation objectives into traditional real estate developments. Conservation developments target the design, construction, and stewardship of new developments and aim to keep a significant portion of the land in a natural state, while strategically clustering development on a smaller portion of the property.

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Conservation easement near Crested Butte, Colorado

Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a land trust or public agency and a landowner that limits development and conserves natural and agricultural land. The specific terms of an easement are negotiated between the parties but typically involve the transfer of certain property rights, such as development rights, to the land trust or public agency.

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Tree planting as part of a direct payment program

Direct Payment Programs

Direct payment programs offer landowners an incentive, such as a cash payment, in exchange for implementing specific conservation practices on their land. The concept originated after the Dust Bowl swept through the Great Plains during the Great Depression.

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A tree on the van Eck property in California

Forest and Rangeland Carbon Offsets

Forest and rangeland carbon offsets help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions by providing payments for activities that lead to the sequestration of carbon by natural vegetation. Carbon emitters pay landowners to harness the carbon sequestering properties of their land to offset emissions elsewhere.

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Pronghorn antelope on the range in Wyoming


Grassbanking is a tool that incentivizes ranchers to adopt conservation practices on their property in exchange for grazing access on another property. Qualifying conservation practices may include weed control, removal of fencing, restoring habitat for key species, and granting a conservation easement on their property.

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A field where a pop-up habitat provides protection for Bobolinks

Pop-Up Habitats

Pop-up habitats incentivize short-term conservation practices that are only needed during a critical window of time, such as a migration or breeding period. Through a pilot program led by The Nature Conservancy in 2014, early efforts to implement the concept have focused on providing temporary wetland habitat for migratory birds...

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A prairie dog perched in front of a residential development

Species Banking and Habitat Exchanges

Species banking is an approach in which landowners earn credits for conserving habitat on their land for specific species of concern. These credits can then be sold to other landowners or organizations that need to mitigate negative impacts to habitat as a result of development or other activities.

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Contact Us

Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources

Bim Kendall House

804 E Fremont St

Laramie, WY 82072

Phone: (307) 766-5080

Fax: (307) 766-5099


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