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Tuesday, April 10 • 10:00am - 10:15am
CONSERVATION AND RESTORATION PLANNING: Improving the Utility of the National Conservation Easement Database Using Hierarchical Mixture Models

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AUTHORS: Matthew A. Williamson, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis; Rose A. Graves, Human-Environment Systems, Boise State University; Brett G. Dickson, Conservation Science Partners, Inc.

ABSTRACT: Conservation easements, voluntary encumbrances placed on private property to limit future development, are increasingly recognized for their potential contributions to local, regional, and national conservation objectives. As such, there is growing interest in models capable of identifying locations where individuals are likely to adopt easements. The National Conservation Easement Database provides one of the most comprehensive, spatially explicit datasets documenting conservation easements in the United States; however, current estimates suggest that only 49% of existing easements are contained in the database. The inability to distinguish the factors correlated with easement adoption from those correlated with easement reporting may create bias in efforts to develop spatially explicit, predictive models of the probability of easement occurrence. This challenge is analogous to the problem of imperfect detection in wildlife surveys wherein an individual may be absent because a) it truly does not occur in the area or b) because the surveyor failed to detect it. Extending this analogy to the NCED, we develop hierarchical Bayesian mixture models that rely on fine resolution data on demographics, economics and land ownership to estimate the likelihood of easement adoption while explicitly accounting for the effects of variation in reporting rate. We illustrate the potential for bias both in interpreting covariates and estimating the probability of CE adoption and motivate our models with a series of simulations. We then evaluate the ability of our models to predict unreported easements using data from Montana and Idaho. Our results suggest that untangling the drivers of reporting from those of adoption is critical for conservation planners hoping to identify areas where easements are likely to play key roles in achieving conservation objectives. Moreover, our approach may improve the ability to model non-random under-reporting of a variety of conservation behaviors.

Tuesday April 10, 2018 10:00am - 10:15am CDT
LaSalle 5 (7th Floor)