How do you put a value on conservation land?

When you think about conservation and protection of public land, you probably don’t think of boosting the economy. In fact there is a major court case in front of the MA Supreme Court right now discussing the taxable reality of keeping conservation lands protected. And it seems every week there is a new town in MA questioning the economic value of their protected land.

So it is encouraging to see John Judge, president of the AMC, make the case that there are very real economic benefits of protected land.  In the latest issue of AMC Outdoors he quotes an Outdoor Industry Association report that says outdoor recreation is responsible for $646 billion in direct spending annually nationwide, and supports over 6 million American jobs. In MA, the The Trust for Public Land “conducted an economic analysis of the return on the Commonwealth’s investment in land conservation through a variety of state funding programs and found that every $1 invested in land conservation returned $4 in natural goods and services to the MA economy”.

The term “public benefit” keeps popping up in these discussions asking whether conservation organizations can provide sufficient benefit to warrant protection from taxes or development. We feel you don’t have to look too far to find public benefit at work here in Groton.  We have consumer enterprises like the Nashoba Paddler operating on a clean river, a farmers’ market located on a former barn site giving small farmers and artisans new commerce, even movie producers taking interest in our cinematic-worthy views along The General Field. And because we had protected over 500 acres of Town Forest, we were able to provide a new well for the West Groton Water District a few years ago.

We like thinking of our open spaces as contributing to our overall economy. It’s a new way to appreciate the good work of the state and national conservation groups and our own local groups including Conservation Commission, The Groton Trails Network, the NRWA and the GCT. Reports like these help put a dollar figure on benefits once enjoyed as a quality of life and land.