Conservation Strategy Fund helps local conservationists use economic tools to find smart, efficient solutions to the most urgent environmental problems. Since its creation in 1998, CSF has conducted dozens of analysis projects in forests, rivers and coastal environments. Most of our work has focused in the tropics, where extraordinarily high levels of biological diversity are found. To maximize the reach and quality of our work, we involve leading experts and conservation organizations in all of our projects.

Ocean Economics - Gladden Spit, Belize

Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF) conducted economic valuation research of Marine areas in Belize, Panama and Brazil. This work was supported by Conservation International’s Marine Management Area Science program. Valuation of ecosystem goods and services was carried out within three formally protected marine areas: Gladden Spit (Belize), Coiba (Panama) and Abrolhos (Brazil).

Usumacinta Dam


p>In a collaborative study by ProNatura Chiapas, Defensores de la Naturaleza, Conservation International and CSF, we analyzed a dam proposed on the Usumacinta River in Mexico. Our objective was to stimulate discussion on the costs and benefits of such projects in Mesoamerica's largest watershed. We chose to analyze the Tenosique project (formerly known as Boca del Cerro), given that it is apparently the dam being given the most serious consideration by planners. We analyzed the project with four criteria in mind: financial feasibility; economic efficiency; the distribution of costs and benefits; and environmental sustainability. A project is considered financially feasible if the firm implementing it receives income in excess of its costs.

Photo of invasive swordfern in forest

Economic Impacts of Invasive Species

In 2006 and 2007, CSF worked with The Nature Conservancy to develop an interview-based economic assessment process to assist developing countries in evaluating and addressing the impacts of invasive species.

CSF conducted economic assessments of invasive species of particular concern in Uganda, Ghana and Zambia in partnership with CABI Africa and The World Conservation Union (IUCN) as part of the UNEP/GEF project "Removing Barriers to Invasive Plant Management in Africa."

In the Ashanti region of Ghana, we found that the aggressive invasive tree Broussonetia papyrifera (Pulp mulberry) can reduce land rents by 50%, and decrease yields by 50% - 90% for important crops such as maize, cocoa and cassava.

Dams and Roads in the Madeira Basin

In this analysis, we assess the effect of Madeira River energy and transportation infrastructure projects on soybean expansion. Precarious transportation networks and natural barriers have kept the region of the Upper Madeira River geographically and economically isolated and have contributed to the low population densities, particularly in the Bolivian States of Beni and Pando. The development potential of this area, where Brazil, Peru and Bolivia meet, lies in the possibilities of accessing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans by river or through the construction and pavement of roads.

Changuinola-Teribe Dams in Panama

We analyzed four hydroelectric projects planed in Panama’s Bocas del Toro Province. All four projects would be located in the Changuinola-Teribe watershed, within the limits of the Palo Seco Protected Forest (known by the Spanish acronym BPPS). Three of these projects would be built on the Changuinola River, with the fourth on the Bonyic River. Both rivers have their headwaters within the Amistad International Park (PILA). The dams’ combined installed capacity would be 446 megawatts, equivalent to 30 percent of Panama’s total capacity at the end of 2004. Our analysis suggests that the projects would most likely be both economically and financially feasible.

Roads in the Selva Maya

An assortment of road projects has been proposed in the border region of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, which is part of the Maya Forest, the largest contiguous tropical forest in the Americas north of the Amazon. The proposals are apparently aimed at spurring economic growth and reducing the high levels of poverty found in this area. But more and better roads usually bring more people and expand farms. Decision-makers are therefore confronted with a seeming conflict between conservation and development goals. Would new roads be bad or good for the Maya Forest region?

Payment for Environmental Services in the Atlantic Rainforest

Financial sustainability of protected areas is always a challenge in developing countries. In this project, CSF developed a methodology to implement a Payment for Environmental Services (PES) system focused on water conservation for human consumption in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil. This payment system approach is supported by the 47th and 48th articles of the Brazilian National System of Conservation Units Law (which goes by the Portuguese acronym SNUC), which aim to generate income for protected areas management. The project study area was the Guapiaçu and Macacu rivers basin in Três Picos State Park, close to Rio de Janeiro city. This basin provides water for about 1.7 million people.

Our analysis was developed in five phases:

Economic Benefits of Madidi National Park

There is much debate over whether natural protected areas restrict economic development or enable it. In this study we assessed the local economic benefits provided by Madidi National Park & Natural Area of Integrated Management, one of Bolivia’s largest protected areas, and also one of the most important globally for biodiversity conservation. We applied this analysis approach previously for Amazonian protected areas near Manaus, Brazil.

Economics of a Road Through Madidi National Park

Rural roads are frequently associated with economic development, but they are often implemented without consideration for their economic feasibility also called "efficiency." The terms feasibility and efficiency describe investments whose benefits are, at a minimum, greater than their costs. When such criteria are ignored, road projects are funded by governments with no clear expectations of increasing the overall wealth of the country. In fact, they often bring considerable economic losses when accrued benefits do not offset large costs involved with road improvement or construction.

Roads and protected areas in northern Bolivia Amazon

Road projects in the Amazon Basin are seen by some people as required elements for economic development, but they can come with a host of social and environmental disadvantages. These include the destruction of forests and other natural habitats, the loss of biodiversity, the spread of human diseases, displacement of indigenous and non-indigenous communities and the concentration of landholdings. Studies that consider and integrate the varied effects of road projects can point to those investments that best achieve, and, to the extent possible, reconcile economic, environmental and social goals.