What is Conservation Development?

Conservation development (CD) is an approach to the design, construction, and stewardship of a development that achieves functional protection of natural resources, while also providing social and economic benefits to human communities. CD includes a wide range of project types, ranging from rural ranches, to suburban conservation subdivisions, to large master-planned communities. CD has been in use for more than four decades and currently accounts for up to one-fourth of private land conservation and a growing proportion of residential development in the United States.

Why is it needed?

Private lands play a critical role in conservation, providing a disproportionate amount of high-quality habitat for plant and animal species and ecosystem services that are critical for human well-being. Although private land conservation efforts have increased rapidly in recent years, the total area of developed land in the U.S. is 10 times that of privately-conserved lands, and land is being converted to residential and urban development at twice the rate that it is being protected. Current funding for land conservation is inadequate to assemble an inclusive and ecologically viable network of conservation areas, and existing protected areas are unlikely to accommodate shifts in species’ ranges due to climate change. The high rates of land development, conservation finance gap, and need for dynamic conservation strategies in a changing climate make this a critical time to examine new approaches for financing land conservation and incorporating conservation objectives into development practices.

Please see our resources to learn more about conservation development.