Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date


JEL Codes

Q24, Q28, Q57


Q24 - Renewable Resources and Conservation: Land, Q28 - Renewable Resources and Conservation: Government Policy, Q57 - Ecological Economics: Ecosystem Services; Biodiversity Conservation; Industrial Ecology


We determine the effect of the US Endangered Species Act’s Critical Habitat designation on land use change from 1992 to 2011. We find that the rate of change in developed land (constructed material) and agricultural land is not significantly affected by Critical Habitat designation. Therefore, Sections 7 and 9 of the Endangered Species Act do not appear to be more heavily applied in lands designated as Critical Habitat areas versus lands within listed species’ ranges, but without critical habitat designation. Further, there does not appear to be any extraordinary conservation activity in critical habitat areas; for example, environmental non-profits and land trusts do not appear to be concentrating activity in these areas. Before we conclude that the opportunity cost of Critical Habitat designation is negligible we need to examine the land management impacts of designation.