Conservation Finance Resources

Overview of Conservation Finance

Conservation finance is quickly expanding beyond the traditional domains of philanthropy, grants, and tax incentives to include a broad range of funding options. Conservation finance options vary by public, private, and non-profit funders, by type from loan to grant to tax incentive to market mechanism, and by scale ranging from federal to local. Acquiring full knowledge of conservation resources is both powerful and challenging. These resources outline the array of conservation finance tools that might be used, alone or combined, to effectively fund land conservation.

              1. Overviews of Conservation Finance
              2. Public Sector Resources
                        2.1 Public Sector Resources: Budgets, Bonds and Ballot Measures
                        2.2 Public Sector Resources: Tax Benefits
                        2.3 Public Sector Resources: International/Multilateral Funding Resources 
                        2.4 Public Sector Resources: Settlement Funds from Regulatory and Legal
              3. Philanthropy
              4. Markets and Private Capital
                        4.1 Markets and Private Capital: Conservation Investment Banking
                        4.2 Markets and Private Capital: Ecosystem Service Markets
                        4.3 Markets and Private Capital: Enhanced Forest and Amenity-Based Economies
                        4.4 Markets and Private Capital: Limited Development
              5. Economic Benefits of Conservation

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 1. Overviews of Conservation Finance

Articles and Books:

A Field Guide to Conservation Finance. Clark, Story. Island Press, 2007.

From Walden to Wall Street: Frontiers of Conservation Finance. Levitt, James N., editor. Island Press and the Lincoln Institute, 2005.

Investing in Nature: Case Studies of Land Conservation in Collaboration with Business. Ginn, William. Island Press, 2005.

Financing Community-Based Conservation of Working Land Workshop Proceedings. Stanford Law School, April 13-14, 2007.

Sources of Private Funding for Land Conservation.” The Wilderness Society.


2. Public Sector Resources

Public sector resources make up the largest source of conservation finance. They include tax incentives; grant programs at federal, state and local levels; settlements resulting from regulatory violations; and revolving loan funds, to name a few. They range in scale from federal to local.

Articles and Books:

The Trust for Public Land. Conservation Finance Handbook: How Communities are Paying for Parks and Land Conservation. Hopper, Jim, and Ernest Cook. Trust for Public Land, 2004.

Land Conservation Financing. McQueen, Mike and Edward T. McMahon. The Conservation Fund. Island Press, 2003.

Land Trust's Role in Procuring Pubic Funding for Conservation.” Cook, Ernest. Exchange Spring 2004 23:2.

“Sources of Public Funding for Land Conservation.” The Wilderness Society.

Local Greenprinting for Growth Workbook Chapter III: How to Secure Conservation Funds. Trust for Public Land.

Additional Resources:

Online Conservation Finance Course.” Zieper, Matt. Trust for Public Land, 2005.


2.1 Public Sector Resources:
Budgets, Bonds and Ballot Measures

Budgets, bonds, and ballot measures are the core tools of public finance of land conservation, driving traditional grant programs from the farm bill to land acquisition funds as well as newer tools such as transfer of development rights programs. Revenue sources include property and income taxes as well as more unusual sources such as real estate transfer fees, impact fees, license plate programs, and lottery revenue.

Articles and Books:


“Resources: Profile of Federal Programs” in Local Greenprinting for Growth Workbook Chapter III: How to Secure Conservation Funds, 38-39. The Trust for Public Land.

Farm Bill Flies Despite a Glitch.” Ness, Eric. The Katoomba Group.

Transfer of Development Rights in U.S. Communities: Evaluating Program Design, Implementation, and Outcomes. Walls, Margaret and Virginia McConnell. Resources for the Future, 2007.


Purchase of Development Rights: Conserving Lands, Preserving Western Livelihoods. Western Governors’ Association, Trust for Public Land, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Western Governors’ Association, 2001.

Purchase of Development Rights and Conservtion Easements: Frequently Asked Questions.” New Mexico State University. Agricultural Experiment Station.


“Online Conservation Finance Course.” Lessons 5, 6, and 7. Zieper, Matt. http://efc.muskie.usm.maine.edu/conservation_finance/LESSON_5.htm

Additional Resources:

General Resources

LandVote 2006: Americans Invest in Parks and Conservation.” Trust for Public Land. See an overview of this resource at the Trust for Public Land's website.

The 2008 Farm Bill.” American Farmland Trust.

TDR Fact Sheet.” American Farmland Trust.

Conservation Finance.” Trust for Public Land.


Federal Forest Legacy Program.” United States Forest Service.

Cooperative Conservation.” U.S. Department of the Interior.

Farm Bill Issues.” United States Department of Agriculture and Economic Research Service.

“Online Conservation Finance Course.” Lesson 2. Zieper, Matt.


“Online Conservation Finance Course.” Lessons 3 and 4. Zieper, Matt.

Land Conservation Tools: Fact Seheet 4: Purchase of Development Rights Facts Sheet.” 1000 Friends of Minnesota.

Land Conservation Tools: Fact Sheet 5: Transfer of Development Rights Fact Sheet.” 1000 Friends of Minnesota.


County Leadership in Conservation Awards.” National Association of Counties.

Case Studies:


Forest Legacy Program: Funded and Completed Projects. U.S.D.A. Forest Service.


Florida Communities Trust

How Maine Won $50 Million for Public Land: Behind the Scenes of a Statewide Ballot Initiative Campaign.” Hamilton, Chris, Bruce Kidman and Angela Twitchell.

Alabama's Overlapping Priority Areas for Conservation of Terrestrial, Estuarine, and Aquatic GCN Species.” Trust for Public Land. 2007.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund: How the CWSRF Program Works.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Nov 2007.

EPA Loan Helps Nonprofit Preserve Wetlands.” Kemp Rye, Mark. On Tap Magazine Fall 2001.

Georgia Conservation Financing Study.” Trust for Public Land. 2006.


County Leadership in Conservation Awards. 2007 Winners.” National Association of Counties.

Maine Comprehensive Fish & Wildlife Conservation Strategy: Local Conservation Finance Priorities.” Trust for Public Land.

Community Forests A Community Investment Strategy.” The Northern Forest Center. 2007. 


2.2 Public Sector Resources:
Tax Incentives

Tax benefits consist of deductions to property taxes and income taxes and tax credits (in some cases tradable tax credits). They may apply to individuals or businesses and occur at scales ranging from federal to local.

Articles and Books:

2006 Changes to Federal Law Affecting Donations of Conservation Easements.” Land Trust Alliance. 2006.

2006 Federal Land Conservation Tax Code Changes Explained.” Land Trust Alliance. 2006.

Saving the Ranch: Conservation Easement Design In the American West. Annela, A. and J.B. Wright. Island Press, 2004.

Conservation Easement Tax Credits in Environmental Federalism.” Young, Christen Linke. Yale Law Journal Pocket Park. April 01, 2008.

A National View of Agricultural Easement Programs.” American Farmland Trust.

Additional Resources:

Tax Benefits for Conservation.” Land Trust Alliance.

Colorado Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program.”Colorado Conservation Trust.

Resources First Foundation.

Case Studies:

Pingree Forest Partnership.New England Forest Association.

ITG Project Case Study: The Pingree Forest Partnership as a Private Lands Conservation Innovation.” Levitt, James N. Government Innovators Network. Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, 2003.


2.3 Public Sector Resources: International/Multilateral Funding Resources 

Articles and Books:

Legal Tools and Incentives for Private Lands Conservation in Latin America: Building Models for Success. Environmental Law Institute.

Additional Resources:

Finding International Resources.” Convention on Biological Diversity.

Innovative Financing for Forest Conservation and the Environment: Tropical Forest Conservation Act (TFCA) and Enterprise for the Americas Initiative (EAI).” USAID.

REDLAC. “Red de Fondos Ambiantales de Latin America y el Caribe.”

Case Studies:


2.4 Public Sector Resources:
Settlement Funds from Regulatory and Legal Proceedings

Settlement funds generated from state and federal regulatory agencies or arranged directly between potentially responsible parties and conservation entities, are rarely predictable but can be a valuable source of conservation funding. They are known as supplemental environmental projects (SEPs), natural resource damages settlements (NRDs), and “mitigation funds.”

Articles and Books:

Environmental Enforcement Solutions: How Collaborative SEPs Enhance Community Benefits. National Policy Consensus Center. 2006. http://www.policyconsensus.org/publications/reports/index.html.

Supplemental Environmental Projects: A Fifty State Survey with Model Practices. The Public Law Research Institute, University of California, Hastings College of Law. 2007.

Additional Resources:

Civil Enforcement: SEPs Policy and Guidance.” United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Civil Enforcement: Supplemental Environmental Projects.” United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Case Studies:

“Natural Resources Damages Settlements.” Conservation Resources, Inc.


3. Philanthropic Initiative

Private giving by individuals, foundations, and corporate entities constitutes a major source of conservation finance. Types of giving include grants, loans, or planned giving and wills.

Articles and Books:

External Revolving Loan Funds Expanding Interim Financing for Land Conservation.” McBride, Mary, Peter Stein and Story Clark. Exchange Winter 2006 (Vol. 25 No. 1).

Additional Resources:

Foundation Funding Examples.” The Convention on Biological Diversity.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy.

Foundation Center.

Wilderness Protection and Public Lands.” The Pew Charitable Trusts.

Environment.”Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Environment and Development.” Ford Foundation.

“Conservation and Science.” David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Conservation and the Environment.” The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Case Studies:

Corporate Partners.” Conservation International.

(See sites for individual granting organizations.)


4. Markets and Private Capital

Creation of markets that incentivize land conservation by recognizing the economic opportunity of conservation plays a growing role in conservation finance. From investment banking strategies such as debt-for-nature swaps to habitat banking and real estate investment trusts, these tools for conservation finance apply business concepts to conservation practice.

Articles and Books:

Search for Innovation: Reaching Out for Private Capital.” Coady, Pat. Conservation Finance Workshop. New York, March 7, 2007.


4.1 Markets and Private Capital:
Conservation Investment Banking

Conservation investment banking involves the application of financial tools to land conservation. These tools include timber investment and management organizations (TIMOs) and real estate investment trusts (REITS), debt-for-nature financing, and federal economic development mechanisms such as New Market Tax Credits.

Articles and Books

Debt-for-Nature Inititatives and the Tropical Forest Conservation Act: Status and Implementation. Congressional Research Service. The Library of Congress. 2006.

Senate Report 110-206 - HEARTLAND, HABITAT, HARVEST, AND HORTICULTURE ACT OF 2007.” Committee Report. United States Senate, 2007.

Additional Resources

External Debt and Nature.” Convention on Biological Diversity.

New Markets Tax Credits Overview.” Coastal Enterprises Inc.

Coastal Enterprises Inc.

The Lyme Timber Company.

Plum Creek Timber Company.

Working Forest Bonds: A New Concept to Protect Working Forests.” Institute for Sustainable Forest. 2006.

Conservation Mortgage Trusts as a Tool to Promote Land Stewardship and Sustainable Development Internationally.” Advanced Conservation Strategies.

Case Studies:

Land Deal Opens the Door to Protecting 147500 acres of Chilean Rainforest.” The Nature Conservancy. November 6, 2003.

New Market Tax Credits Transactions.”Coastal Enterprises Inc.

Baucus seeks to protect Plum Creek Forest Lands from Development.” New West Travel and Outdoors. 23 May, 2008.


4.2 Markets and Private Capital:
Ecosystem Service Markets

Ecosystem services describe the benefits provided by land conservation, such as water filtration, carbon sequestration, and habitat provision. Ecosystem service markets commodify these services and build a market around them, harnessing profit incentive to drive land conservation.

Articles and Books:

Payment for Ecosystem Services: Getting Started, a Primer. The Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace.

Banking for Biodiversity. United National Environment Program 2007 Global Roundtable Special. Business.2010 2:4 October 2007.

Partners in Conservation: EIP Pioneers New Model.” Kenny, Alice. The Katoomba Group’s Ecosystem Marketplace.

Forest Carbon in the United States: Opportunities and Options for Private Lands. The Pacific Forest Trust. 2000/2007.

Wetland Mitigation Banking, Environmental Law Institute Banks and Fees Study. The Environmental Law Institute.

Design of U.S. Habitat Banking Systems to Support the Conservation of Wildlife Habitat and At-Risk Species.” The Environmental Law Institute.

The Federal Context for Wetland Mitigation Banking. The Environmental Law Institute.

Cutting Greenhouse Gases the Role for Farms and Forests.” Environmental Defense Fund. May 18, 2008.

Things are Heating up: Economic Issues and Opportunities from Global Warming. Goldman Sachs. 2007.

Additional Resources:

Ecosystem Marketplace.” Defenders of Wildlife.

Conservation Economics.” Defenders of Wildlife.

Ecosystem Marketplace.” The Katoomba Group.

World Bank Program on Forests.

The Pacific Forest Trust.

Chicago Climate Exchange.

Advanced Conservation Strategies.

Case Studies:

“Malpai Borderlands Partnership.” Cooperative Conservation America.

Gopher Tortoise Conservation Bank.” Cooperative Conservation America.

From Successful Financier to Mitigation Banker: A Profile of Fred Danforth.”Bayon, Ricardo. The Katoomba Group.


4.3 Markets and Private Capital:
Enhanced Forest and Amenity-Based Economies

Enhanced forest and amenity-based economies refer to sustainable forest management for timber revenue and building local economies on the basis of local environmental attributes, often through tourism promotion or attraction of workers able to work from home through technology. One creative example of a conservation finance tool based on an amenity-based economy is the voluntary surcharge placed on hotel bills and used to fund local land conservation.

Articles and Books:

Tourism and the Amenity-Based Economy. Rural Sociology Society.

Guiding Priciples for a New Economy Based on Forest Restoration. Arizona Restoration Economy Committee of the Arizona Forest Health Advisory and Oversight Councils.

Additional Resources:

Rural Development Strategies. United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service. Available at: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/RuralDevelopment/.

Amber Waves. United States Department of Agriculture and Economic Research Service.

The Northern Forest Center.

The International Ecotourism Society.

Case Studies:

Natural Dividends: Wildland Protection and the Changing Economy of the Rocky Mountain West.” Haefele, Michelle, Pete Morton, and Nada Culver.

Economic Oasis: Revealing the True Value of the Mohave Desert. Defenders of Wildlife. 2008.


4.4 Markets and Private Capital:
Limited Development 

Conservation and limited development, or “limited development” finances land conservation through development of a portion of the conserved parcel for profit by the land trust or conservation entity. Limited development can further conservation goals. There is considerable discussion about how to ensure the effective use of limited development, about measurements and standards by which to gauge its effect, and about the ethical questions associated with land conservation organizations engaging in property development

Articles and Books:

“A framework for understanding conservation development and its ecological implications.” Milder, J.C.  BioScience 57: 757–768, 2007.

An Ecologically-Based Evaluation of Conservation and Limited Development Projects.” Milder, Jeffrey C. Master’s Thesis. Department of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 2005.

“Evaluating the potential for conservation development: Biophysical, economic, and institutional perspectives.” Pejchar, L., P.M. Morgan, M.R. Caldwell, C. Palmer, and G.C. Daily. Conservation Biology 21: 69–78, 2007.

Additional Resources:

Conservation and Limited Development Projects.

A Practitioner’s Guide to Conservation and Limited Development Projects. Milder, Jeff.

Case Studies:

Balancing Conservation and Development in Maine’s North Woods.” Open Space Institute.

Conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem function through limited development: An empirical evaluation.” Milder, J.C., J.P. Lassoie, and B.L. Bedford. Conservation Biology: online early. 2007.


5. Economic Benefits

Conservation finance addresses the costs of conservation, even as it increasingly harnesses conservation’s benefits to fund conservation. A significant body of research demonstrates how conservation can bring economic gain.

Articles and Books:

Capitalization of Open Spaces into Housing Values and the Residential Property Tax Revenue Impacts of Agricultural Easement Programs.” Geoghegan, Jacqueline, Lori Lynch, and Shawn Bucholtz. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, April 2003 (Vol. 32, No. 1).

Conservation Pays: How Protecting Endangered and Threatened Species makes good business sense. Defenders of Wildlife.

Cost of Community Services Studies: Making the Case for Conservation. American Farmland Trust.

Additional Resources:

Economic Benefits of Conservation.” Convention on Biological Diversity.

Case Studies:

Economic Benefits of Natural Land Conservation: Case Study of Northeast Florida. Kiker, Clyde F and Alan Hodges. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

CFI Network Search


Resource in the Spotlight:

Conservation Almanac

The Conservation Almanac is the first comprehensive source of information about the state of land conservation in America. It contains original data for each of the 50 states on dollars spent on land conservation and acres protected by the states and the federal government, as well as a rundown on the policies and conservation programs at work in each state. To visit the Conservation Almanac, click here.