Final Report: Informing the Identification of Economically Effective Targets for Grassland Conservation in the Dakotas
America’s remaining grassland in the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) is at risk of being lost to crop production. When crop prices are high, like the historically high corn prices that the U.S. experienced between 2008 and 2014, the risk of grassland conversion is even higher. Changing climate will add uncertainties to any efforts toward conservation of grassland in the PPR. Grassland conversion to cropland in the region would imperil nesting waterfowl among other species and further impair water quality in the Mississippi watershed. In this project, we sought to contribute to the understanding of land conversion in the PPR with the aim to better target the use of public and private funds allocated toward incentivizing...
An increase in land conversion from grassland to cropland in the United States has attracted attention in recent years. According to Claassen et al. (2011a), grassland to cropland conversion is concentrated in the Northern Plains, including Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, which encompasses only 18% of U.S. rangeland but accounted for 57 percent of U.S. rangeland to cropland conversion during the study period of 1997 to 2007. Focusing on land cover data in the Western Corn Belt, Wright and Wimberly (2013) also pointed out that grassland conversion was mostly concentrated in the Dakotas, east of the Missouri River and between 2006 and 2011.
Grassland easement acquisition: Conversion hazard rate, additionality, spatial spillover, and heuristics
This study investigates optimal grassland easement acquisition strategies with a focus on the roles of environmental benefit additionality and spatial spillover effect of grassland conversion. Numerical analysis shows that the optimal solution under a targeting strategy that does not consider any spatial spillover effect may secure less environmental benefit additionality than does a heuristic algorithm that considers spatial spillover. Moreover, heuristic algorithms that consider either conversion probability or spatial spillover can generally achieve more than 97% of environmental benefit additionality obtained under the optimal solution of a targeting strategy that considers both additionality and spatial spillover.
Strategic Grasslands Conversions and Conservation Easement Acquisitions in the Dakotas: Analysis using Remotely Sensed Data
We develop an analytical framework to examine an agency's optimal grassland easement acquisition while accounting for landowners’ optimal decisions under uncertainty in both conversion and conservation returns. We derive the value of “wait and see” (i.e., neither convert nor ease grassland) for landowners and find that grassland-to-cropland conversion probability and easement value vary in opposing directions when “wait and see” is preferred, indicating that a larger conversion probability does not necessarily imply a higher easement value. Our analysis shows that when conservation funds can be flexibly allocated across periods then the agency's optimal acquisition can be readily achieved by sorting land tracts...