Land Conservation Benefits Wealthy White Landowners

New land conservation projects tend to offer financial benefits to wealthy, White landowners who neighbor the region by boosting property values, according to research conducted by the University of Rhode Island and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

What to know:

  • Of the $9.8 billion in property wealth generated by conservation from 2001 to 2009 nationwide, 89% went to White households, 9% to Black and Hispanic households, and 2% to Asian households.

  • Using Massachusetts as an example, researchers applied econometrics to look at land values near conservation lands and found that from 1998 to 2016, each acre of conserved land increased the value of nearby homes by 0.018%.

  • The bump in value means that a median-priced Massachusetts home located near 10 acres of conserved land increased around $659 in value, translating into roughly $62 million in conservation-related property wealth gains over the study period.

  • White households in the top wealth quartile received 43% of the housing wealth generated, which is 140% more than would be expected under an equal demographic distribution.

  • Over the past 35 years, over $80 billion in conservation funding has been approved by municipal referenda across the US to set aside land, protecting it from future development in perpetuity.

This is a summary of the article “Distribution of Capitalized Benefits From Land Conservation,” published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on April 24, 2023. The full article can be found on

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