|Abstract:||Ecosystem conservation and restoration in rural and urban areas of the United States not only provide a variety of environmental benefits, but may also generate other unintended impacts on local economies, social structure, and urban well-being. This dissertation focuses on three complementary points of ecosystem conservation and restoration, seeking to find empirical evidence on the economic impacts of conservation and restoration in both rural and urban areas and exploring sources of heterogeneity in residents’ preferences for the related environmental amenities.
The first study focuses on the largest federally funded U.S. private land retirement program, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), and examines the impact of the CRP on local employment. The second study focuses on one of the largest and well-funded tree planting programs in the U.S., the MillionTreeNYC Program. It examines the impact of urban tree plantings on housing values and neighborhood compositions. The third study of my dissertation analyzes the relationship between an individual’s childhood experience with nature and WTP for conservation in the context of grassland restoration using a choice experiment survey in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.
Results from the first study indicate that the CRP program negatively impacts farm employment due to land-use change from agricultural production. However, it also provides more non-farm job opportunities. As a result, the total number of jobs for the whole economy increases with CRP enrollment.
The second study shows that an increased supply of urban trees positively affects housing prices. In addition, this tree planting program results in residential sorting as street trees attract more white, educated, and young households, yet the magnitudes found in this paper are relatively small. Thus, the results imply that it is possible for environmental justice policies to provide public goods without significant displacement of the existing population. The third study shows that people’s demand for environmental goods is affected by their childhood experiences. People who have childhood experiences with nature would value nature more as adults. Programs facilitating nature- related activities for children may be able to help combat the negative effect of reduced daily-life exposure to nature on the value people can derive from nature later in their lives.
Overall, this dissertation provides some insights into ecosystem conservation and restoration planning in the U.S. The findings of this dissertation expand the understanding of the economic impact of conservation and restoration in rural and urban areas, as well as the potential consequence of urbanization on people’s preference for nature.