Private-sector conservation under the US Endangered Species Act: a return-on-investment perspective

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Apr 06, 2020
Rebecca Epanchin-Niell and James Boyd



The US Endangered Species Act (ESA) is an important safety net for the protection and recovery of critically imperiled species. One mechanism of the ESA is prohibitions on harming listed species and their habitat, yet the ESA does not require proactive conservation by the private sector, which is necessary for the recovery of many species. A range of ESA programs have been developed – including Candidate Conservation Agreements, Safe Harbor Agreements, and a Voluntary Prelisting Conservation Actions policy – to enhance flexibility and encourage voluntary conservation activities. But why would businesses and other private landowners voluntarily engage in proactive conservation efforts above and beyond what is required for ESA compliance? We applied a return‐on‐investment (ROI) perspective to outline sources of costs and benefits and to explore program participation incentives. This ROI perspective sheds light on the types of financial factors likely to affect private‐sector participation and program effectiveness, and points to better ways to target private‐sector engagement and design more effective programs.

Read the full article in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

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