Economic Research Report No. (ERR-19) 66 pp

May 2006

Balancing the Multiple Objectives of Conservation Programs

Many of the Nation's conservation programs use an index approach to prioritize environmental and cost objectives. In an index, objectives are weighted by relative importance. This report provides empirical evidence on the cost and environmental benefit tradeoffs of different weighting schemes in USDA's Conservation Reserve Program and considers how different weighting schemes encourage different sets of landowners to offer land for enrollment. The report finds that while small changes in index weights do not markedly affect levels of environmental benefits that can be achieved at a national level, larger changes can have a moderate impact.

Keywords: Conservation programs, multiple objectives, Conservation Reserve Program, CRP, environmental benefits index, EBI, objective weights, environmental benefit tradeoffs, conservation program design

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