Prioritizing conservation efforts in the Squam Lakes watershed using knowledge-based models

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Bartlett, Olivia
As an increasing number of Americans are leaving urban and suburban areas to live in rural and exurban regions, agricultural and forested land continues to be converted for residential development. This conversion pattern is most prominent in rural regions with attractive natural resource amenities such as aesthetic value and recreational opportunities. One method of preserving rural landscapes has been through the acquisition of conservation easements held by local, regional, or national land trusts. However, no precise formula exists for committing private land to a conservation easement. This project created logic-based models using conservation criteria established by a land trust, the Squam Lakes Conservation Society (SLCS) in central New Hampshire, to address the need for a systematic, data-driven approach to prioritizing conservation easements. The model prioritized areas within the Squam Lakes watershed and evaluated existing conservation easements based on the SLCS criteria. The model was created so that it can adapt as the needs and values of the community that operates through SLCS can change through time.