Success and design of local referenda for land conservation

Authors

  • H. Spencer Banzhaf,

    1. Associate Professor, Department of Economics, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies; Faculty Research Fellow, National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, MA; and Senior Research Fellow, Property and Environment Research Center, Bozeman, MT
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  • Wallace E. Oates,

    1. Professor, Department of Economics, University of Maryland, and University Fellow, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.
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  • James N. Sanchirico

    1. Professor, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California at Davis, and Nonresident Fellow, Resources for the Future, Washington, D.C.
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Abstract

From 1998 to 2006, over three-quarters of the more than 1,550 U.S. referenda targeting open space passed. We analyze the success of the conservation movement at holding referenda in areas with greater ecological value and greater likelihood of supporting conservation. To do so, we first analyze the patterns in where referenda are held and in which finance mechanisms they employ. Controlling for these two selection patterns, we then investigate the factors determining the success of the referenda. Our findings suggest that conservation groups are pursuing a successful strategy, targeting communities with above-average probabilities of passing referenda and higher ecological value. Nevertheless, our results suggest that overlooked opportunities exist in minority and middle-class neighborhoods, in suburban fringe areas, and in the Southeast. © 2010 by the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management.

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