Landowner’s ability to leverage in negotiations over habitat conservation

Voluntary conservation agreements are commonly used to stem the impact of habitat destruction and degradation on terrestrial biodiversity. Past studies that aim to inform how resources for conservation should be allocated across land parcels have assumed the costs of securing conservation on sites can be estimated solely on the basis of the value of alternative land uses. However, in a voluntary negotiation, a landowner could hold-out for a higher payment based on a conservation group or agency’s willingnessto- pay by leveraging the value of biodiversity on the property. We examine landowners’ ability to leverage and the consequences for conservation planning. To explore this, we first use an analytical approximation that simplifies the situation to one where a conservation group prioritizes one site for acquisition. Landowners’ ability to hold-out for higher payments in this situation ranges from approximately 17% to 55% of the value of alternative land uses on the site. We show that landowners’ ability to hold-out for higher payments is more sensitive to variance in the value of alternative land uses than variance in the biodiversity value across properties and is highest when the two factors negatively covary. Next, we consider multi-site selection decisions accounting for community complementarity across parcels. We find that leverage potential can be significantly higher in this context, with a maximum increase of 237% of the value of alternative land uses, and that community irreplaceability is correlated with landowners’ ability to leverage. If one landowner holds out for a higher payment, it has implications for what other parcels should be priorities for protection.