FAQ: Economic benefits of protected land

At Little Traverse Conservancy we know conservation is an investment that pays many dividends for years to come, including economic ones.

There are two categories for this:

1)      Most of the lands that are owned by Little Traverse Conservancy as nature preserves or working forest reserves are exempt from taxes because of the public benefits they offer. This is like what occurs with lands owned by local governments, churches, those enrolled in some state sponsored programs that offer public benefits and others.


2)      Some of our Working Forest Reserves are enrolled in Michigan’s Commercial Forest Program. This provides a reduced payment in lieu of taxes to the local government of $1.35 per acre which is matched by the state. Any landowner with qualified property can enroll in the Commercial Forest Program which requires an active forest management plan, and that the public can access the property for hunting, fishing, and trapping. 

Research conducted by the Trust for Public Land (www.tpl.org) has shown that conservation returns between $4 and $11 for every dollar invested. In Vermont, conservation returns $9 to the economy, and in Maine it is as much as $11 (as of 2012).

Parks and green spaces improve water quality, naturally manage stormwater, reduce air pollution, enhance community health, provide recreational opportunities, attract and retain businesses, and support economic development in their region. People who are physically active in parks have reduced healthcare costs.

In turn, all of this generates local tax revenue both from increased property values and from tourist spending.

Protected lands often enhance property values for local residents, and generate local tax revenue to the community both from the increased property value and from the tourism expenditures from nonlocal visitors.

Green spaces improve water quality, infiltrate stormwater, reduce air pollution, enhance community health, provide recreational opportunities, attract visitors and new businesses, and support economic development in the region. Access to natural lands reduces healthcare costs for people who use them for exercise and outdoor therapy and improves air quality for the community.

More and more studies are documenting the economic benefits of trails to a region. Here are a few from northern Michigan:

Economic Impact of Traverse Area Recreation Trails
Economic Impact of Glacial Hills Pathway, Bellaire
Economic Impact of Little Traverse Wheelway

Most single family residential development does not generate enough tax revenue to cover the costs of roads, schools, municipal services. More does not mean cheaper. This is evidenced by higher tax rates in more developed cities. 

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