New Paper: Stewardship of Conservation Developments

Conservation Development (CD) is a strategy for conserving private lands with the potential to protect biodiversity while meeting growing demands for housing. Although CD is increasingly common, little is known about how CDs are implemented, and whether developers and homeowners follow best practices and achieve conservation objectives. We formally assessed the presence and content of management plans and conservation easements for CD subdivisions (n =302) in six Colorado counties and documented the land uses and stewardship activities that are prohibited, permitted, encouraged, or required in the protected open space of each CD. We found that a majority (69%) of CDs had management documents on file, but their prevalence varied from 0 to 82% among the six counties. Fewer than one-third (29%) of the management documents stated a value or purpose for preserving the land, and objectives associated with human values (e.g., preservation of scenic or agricultural values), were far more prevalent (65–78% of documents with stated reasons for preservation) than objectives associated with conservation goals (e.g., preservation of wildlife, ecological/environmental values) (12–46%). Restrictions on land subdivision and regulation regarding the number and type of structures were most frequently included in management documents (84%), whereas guidelines for wildlife habitat improvement, species-specific monitoring and management, homeowner education, and access to the open space by domestic pets were rarely mentioned (all < 18%). By identifying common deficiencies in management documents, this study will help planners, developers, and homeowners more successfully implement CDs that effectively protect and maintain biodiversity on private lands over the long term.