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Economics of Open Space Conservation

An overview paper of the economic benefits of open space conservation, primarily applicable to suburban and rural areas, where many open-space conservation battles are being fought. It discusses how open space conservation can lead to property tax stability, increased revenues from ecotourism, the maintenance of property values, the prevention of costly infrastructure construction and service costs associated with water and sewage problems, and the avoidance of trash removal and landfill costs.

Key Points:

Property tax stability: Open-space conservation often contributes to controlling taxes, as open space requires less services than developed land.

Ecotourism: Designated areas for migrating birds and other wildlife offer marvelous economic opportunities because they attract large numbers of nature lovers or ecotourists, who spend billions of dollars annually to watch and enjoy wildlife. More than a dozen recent studies of birding ecotourism and birding economics have demonstrated that wildlife refuges, parks, sanctuaries, preserves, and other forms of open space attract millions of tourists and their dollars each year.

Maintenance of property values: The National Association of Home Builders estimates that parks and recreation areas can increase the value of nearby building sites by 15-20%.

Groundwater recharge and pollution protection: Open space prevents both costly infrastructural construction and the service costs associated with water and sewage problems. Natural habitats act as giant sponges, allowing rainwater to percolate into the ground without being polluted, and to recharge aquifers with clean water, resulting in taxpayer savings.

Trash removal and landfill costs: If land is left undeveloped, community taxpayers can avoid many of the social, economic, and environmental problems associated with landfills and trash removal.