Return on Investment

The economic benefits of conserving land are receiving greater attention, and in recent years have become the subject of rigorously-designed academic studies. When people talk about investing in infrastructure, they usually think of pipes, roads, and bridges — of things made of concrete and steel. Investments in Green Infrastructure are just as important, more pleasing to the eye, and potentially everlasting. When you protect land, you protect clean water and air. When you exercise in the great outdoors, you promote health and well-being and reduce the cost of health-care. Far from being money that is “set aside,” investing in land conservation means actively putting funds into sustainable resources that provide essential benefits. Not to mention, it is much more fun to walk through a meadow next to a trickling stream than to gaze through a chain-link fence at a water purification plant.

Researchers are investigating the return on investment we receive from money spent to protect natural open space and create parks. In several independent studies, The Trust For Public Land discovered that $1 invested in land conservation returned $4 in economic value in natural goods and services in studies in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Ohio. The return in New Hampshire was an eye-popping $11.

The benefits we receive here in the East Bay are huge. In 2017 the East Bay Regional Park District commissioned a new study that concludes that the 120,000 acres in the District produce an annual economic value of $500 million to East Bay residents, and separate related economic impacts of $191 million annually. Wow. Here are just a few benefits provided by these investments:

  • Ecosystem services such as clean air and water, healthy food, wildlife habitat, genetic diversity, pollination, waste treatment, and climate regulation
  • Business attraction, retention, and capital spending
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Public health and welfare
  • Public safety and education
  • Enhanced property values
  • Many quality of life factors

If you’re thinking about where your next investment dollar should go — you might just look outside.