Date of Award

8-2007

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

Todd Gabe

Second Committee Member

Kathleen P. Bell

Third Committee Member

Harold Daniel

Abstract

This research is composed of two essays, both using economic approaches to evaluate land conservation in the United States. Essay I uses econometric methods to evaluate public lands, and Essay II uses New Institutional Economics to gain insight into private land conservation. Essay I is titled "The Relationship Between Public Conservation Lands and Tourism Employment in the United States." This research examines the relationship between public conservation lands and the importance of tourism in United States counties. A spatial error model is used on three categories of conservation land: general public land, recreational land, and wilderness areas. A positive, significant relationship was shown between all three categories of conservation lands and the proportion of county employment in tourism. This research suggests that land conservation and economic development are not necessarily mutually exclusive, and that a stronger relationship between the tourism industry and conservation groups might be beneficial. Essay II is titled, "Institutional Analysis Applied to United States Private Land Conservation." United States land conservation, once dominated by government agencies, is increasingly performed by land trusts and other private conservation groups. This activity often takes the form of a land trusts collaborating with private landowners in enacting conservation easements. The rapid growth in private land conservation can be explained in part with insights from institutional analysis. One branch of institutional analysis looks at how institutions, or the 'rules of the game', influence how organizations form and in turn push for institutional change. This can be used to explain how United States tax laws and conservation easement enabling statutes interacted with land trusts and other conservation organizations to enable the rapid growth of private land conservation. This research contains insights into organizational and institutional issues that may be useful to ecosystem managers and conservation planners. A multidisciplinary approach is increasingly emphasized as necessary to the future of ecosystem and biodiversity conservation. This research contributes insights from economics that can be used in this multidisciplinary effort.

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