There’s a debate about whether or not land conservation can also help local economies. On the one hand, some worry that land protection inhibits economic growth by restricting local resource use or building opportunities. On the other hand, there are those who say land protection can support local economies, because it promotes sustainable resource use, tourism, and recreation and attracts new residents and businesses–on top of the numerous ecological and social benefits that come with pristine nature.

To assess these competing views, an interdisciplinary team of researchers looked at New England. Since 1990, these six states from Connecticut to Maine have protected more than 5 million acres of land, creating a unique natural experiment in conservation. By examining how land protection in New England affected key economic indicators for the 1,500 towns and cities in the region from 1990 through 2015, the researchers hoped to…
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