The Economic Opportunity of Conservation Properties & Investment

A recent study concludes that investment in agricultural conservation could generate up to $195 million in economic activity and create more than 1,200 jobs in Colorado. These new findings make a persuasive case for investment in agricultural properties with conservation values.

An Economic Impact Study

In a Colorado State University study, in partnership with Keep It Colorado and Colorado Cattlemen’s Agricultural Land Trust (CCALT), researchers found that if $88.9 million in federal agricultural conservation easement program (ACEP) payments (the estimated current need for active conservation projects in Colorado) were secured, this funding could generate $195 million in new economic activity in the state. In addition, this investment creates 1,233 new jobs at an average wage of $50 thousand per year and $97 million in additional economic value in the Centennial State. 

This is good news for ranchers and farmers. The investments would help bolster these rural economies, as the study estimates that as much as 80 percent of this economic activity would be directed to rural communities.

Conservation Properties

Other Findings From the Study

  • A dozen Colorado land trusts have a current and pending project portfolio of 151 properties comprising 185,395 acres of Colorado private working landscapes with an estimated conservation easement value of about $325 million.
  • 74% of the 151 properties, 83% of the acreage, and 69% of the easement value are located in rural Colorado counties.
  • Financial stimulus of this kind is of critical importance now in view of the effects of the current public health pandemic on the financial health of the agriculture sector.
  • This financial injection provides an important source of debt service and risk mitigation support for rural landowners and stimulus to rural communities.
  • It is reasonable to expect similar effects of investments in conservation easements in other states.

The projections were based on a 2018 study that examined the Farm Bill’s investments in conservation easements in Colorado from 2009 to 2017. 

A Strong Case for Conservation Investment

Entitled “Economic impact of future federal conservation easement investments on (rural) Colorado communities,” this analysis is a strong argument for activating federal funding to convert pending conservation projects into completed conservation easement transactions.

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