Are protected areas worth it?
Most visitors to this site could probably list a variety of benefits gained from having parks, natural areas, conservation lands and the like. Look no further than Florida, where conservation lands have proven critical to the survival of endangered species.
Well-planned natural areas can indeed provide crucial ecological refuges. The economic value of conservation lands tends to be a little more difficult to define. And it is the economics of conservation land acquisition that often dominates the debate.
A recent study in PLoS Biology helps set the economic record straight. This study is a must for anyone interested in the value of protected areas. *Ahem* Floridians? In the study, Balmford and colleagues found that, globally, protected areas receive 8 billion (yes, with a 'b') visits annually. And those visits generate $600 billion (still with a 'b') in direct expenditure. Perhaps this is no surprise to Floridians, where the economic value of birding our natural areas is well known. So, when you find yourself discussing the benefits of protected areas, don't forget to mention that they make good economic sense!