Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Forest Resource Management

Committee Chair

Michael P Strager

Committee Co-Chair

Kathryn Arano Gazal

Committee Member

Alan R Collins

Committee Member

Donald J Lacombe

Committee Member

Timothy T Phipps


Rapid loss of biodiversity has been mainly attributed to the loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation. Conservation efforts have increased over the years but the rate of biodiversity loss has yet to slow down. Biologists attribute this to setting conservation targets without considering scientific recommendations. Practitioners on the other hand claim scientific recommendations to ignore socioeconomic costs and therefore are unrealistic. In the United States, protected areas primarily include public lands but conservation easements have become increasingly more popular. However, the effectiveness of conservation easements have been debatable and has garnered much discussion. Three related issues in land conservation planning is examined. The first essay includes a cost-effective theoretical framework for selecting conservation areas that considers the persistence probabilities of the wildlife species. The theoretical model presented in the essay emphasized the need for location-based conservation targets that would simultaneously answer "where to conserve" and "how much?" A simplistic case study is presented to show the implementation of the framework in the Cacapon River Watershed portion of Morgan County. The model presented for conservation area selection provides a guideline for an optimal allocation of conservation areas considering both the biological and the economic recommendations simultaneously. The second essay employs a spatial hedonic pricing model to determine if different open space types: permanently preserved public areas, conservation easements, and developable open space have different price premiums associated with them for the Cacapon River Watershed portion of Morgan County, West Virginia. A spatial hedonic model is used to account for the spatial dependence in the residential property values. A spatial Durbin model (SDM) was used to estimate the hedonic model. The SDM allows calculating the feedback and spillover effects not possible in non-spatial models. Findings for the study area showed that in heavily forested residential area like the Cacapon River Watershed portion of Morgan County, the proximity to open space may not hold a price premium. The vegetation within the residential property itself could substitute the need for the proximity to open space types. The third and final essay assessed the current private land conservation efforts of land trusts in West Virginia. Data from a survey of individual conserved properties by land trusts operating within West Virginia was used to assess characteristics of the conserved properties. A negative binomial model was employed to assess the factors that determined the distribution of conservation efforts by land trusts. The findings showed that the conserved properties were located in areas high in species richness; however, the conserved properties were not in proximity to public protected areas. The dissertation considered multiple facets of the land conservation planning problem and attempted to provide insights into conservation planning. The study contributes to existing literature related to the optimal area selection problem, hedonic property valuation, and conservation easement assessment.