Conservation on privately held and working land will be an important component of large-scale efforts aimed at tempering habitat loss to protect biodiversity. This realization has given rise to numerous voluntary conservation initiatives. The Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) is a not-for-profit non-governmental organization founded in 1989 to promote and certify voluntary habitat conservation on corporate lands through partnerships and education. To date, little effort has gone toward analyses of data generated through WHC’s certification program to test hypotheses about potential conservation benefits. To address this gap, we performed two distinct data synthesis exercises. First, we conducted a site-level synthesis using data from 1990 through 2015 to determine growth of the program through time. Second, we conducted a detailed synthesis of certification application data submitted between 2012 and 2015 to determine characteristics of recent efforts. We explored potential on-the-ground conservation benefits of WHC certification programs by looking at participating sites within the USA using two geospatial analyses. First, we examined the proximity of these sites to selected areas currently under conservation management and areas considered by The Nature Conservancy to be high priorities for future conservation management. Second, we examined the intersection of sites with mapped potential ranges of species of concern. To illustrate some of the activities associated with these sites, we provide three brief illustrative case studies. Collectively, results suggest potential for WHC certification to provide landscape connectivity and measurable conservation benefits comparable to some financially incentivized programs.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Batllori, E., Miller, C., Parisien, M. A., Parks, S. A., & Moritz, M. A. (2014). Is U.S. climatic diversity well represented within the existing federal protection network? Ecological Applications,24(8), 1898–1907. https://doi.org/10.1890/14-0227.1.
BenDor, T., Lester, T. W., Livengood, A., Davis, A., & Yonavjak, L. (2015). Estimating the size and impact of the ecological restoration economy. PLoS ONE,10, e0128339. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0128339.
Chen, S., & Bouvain, P. (2009). Is corporate social responsibility converging? A comparison of corporate responsibility reporting in the USA, UK, Australia, and Germany. Journal of Business Ethics,87(1), 299–317.
Cushman, S., Landguth, E., & Flather, C. (2012). Evaluating the sufficiency of protected lands for maintaining wildlife population connectivity in the U.S. northern Rocky Mountains. Diversity and Distribution,18(9), 873–884.
Dietz, R. W., & Czech, B. (2005). Conservation deficits for the continental United States: An ecosystem gap analysis. Conservation Biology,19(5), 1478–1487. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1523-1739.2005.00114.x/abstract.
Giannini, H., & Heinen, J. (2014). Miami-Dade County’s environmentally endangered lands covenant program creating protected areas on private lands via financial incentives. Natural Areas Journal,34(3), 338–345.
Griffiths, J. (2010). Biodiversity should be a top priority for businesses. The Guardian Sustainable Business Blog. https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/biodiversity-business-government-conservation-cbd Accessed July 27, 2017.
Hellerstein, D. M. (2017). The US conservation reserve program: the evolution of an enrollment. Land Use Policy,63, 601–610.
IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species grid analysis of range maps. Version 2016.3. Downloaded under license from the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool. http://www.ibatforbusiness.org. Accessed 2 Apr 2019.
Jennings, M. D. (2000). Gap analysis: Concepts, methods, and recent results. Landscape Ecology,15(1), 5–20.
Kaplan, R., Bardwell, L. V., Ford, H. A., & Kaplan, S. (1996). The corporate back-40: Employee benefits of wildlife enhancement efforts on corporate land. Human Dimensions of Wildlife,1(2), 1–13. https://doi.org/10.1080/10871209609359058.
Kelly, J. M., & Hodge, M. R. (1996). The role of corporations in ensuring biodiversity. Environ Manag,20(6), 947–954.
Lacoeuilhe, A., Prevot, A., & Schwartz, A. (2017). The social value of conservation initiatives in the workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning,157, 493–501.
Merrill, D., & Leatherby, L. (2018). Here’s how America uses its land. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-us-land-use/. Accessed 2 Apr 2019.
National Conservation Easement Database (NCED). (2016). http://www.conservationeasement.us/downloads/. Accessed 2 Apr 2019.
NatureServe. (2016). Conservation registry web service. http://wildlifehc.conservationregistry.org/ Accessed July 2016.
Quinn, J. E., & Wood, J. M. (2017). Application of a coupled human natural system framework to organize and frame challenges and opportunities for biodiversity conservation on private lands. Ecology and Society,22(1), 39. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09132-220139.
Rodgers, K., Willcox, A., & Willcox, E. (2017). Common influences on the success of habitat conservation planning under the endangered species act. Human Dimensions of Wildlife,22(5), 438–453.
Rodriguez, S., Peterson, M., Cubbage, F., Sills, E., & Bondell, H. (2012). Private landowner interest in market-based incentive programs for endangered species habitat conservation. Wildlife Society Bulletin,36(3), 469–476.
Scott, J. M., Davis, F. W., McGhie, R. G., Wright, R. G., Groves, C., & Estes, J. (2001). Nature reserves: Do they capture the full range of America’s biological diversity? Ecological Applications,11(4), 999–1007. https://doi.org/10.1890/1051-0761(2001)011%5b0999:NRDTCT%5d2.0.CO;2.
Stralberg, D., Cameron, D., Reynolds, M., Hickey, C., Klausmeyer, K., Busby, S., et al. (2011). Identifying habitat conservation priorities and gaps for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl in California. Biodiversity and Conservation,20(1), 19–40.
Sundberg, J. O. (2013). Tax incentives for open space preservation: Examining the costs and benefits of preferential assessment. Land Lines, October 2013:14–20.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC). (2011). TNC Conservation Portfolio. http://maps.tnc.org/gis_data.html. Accessed 2 Apr 2019.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2017). Conservation Reserve Program Status—End of June 2017. U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency. https://www.fsa.usda.gov/Assets/USDA-FSA-Public/usdafiles/Conservation/PDF/June%202017%20One-Pager.pdf Accessed August 7, 2017.
United States Geological Survey, Gap Analysis Program (USGS-GAP). (2016). Protected areas database of the United States (PAD-US), version 1.4 Combined Feature Class.
Vitousek, P. M., Mooney, H. A., Lubchenco, J., & Melillo, J. M. (1997). Human domination of Earth’s ecosystems. Science,277(5325), 494–499.
Wilcove, D. S., Rothstein, D., Dubow, J., Phillips, A., & Losos, E. (1998). Quantifying threats to imperiled species in the United States. BioScience,48(8), 607–615.
Wright, B. A., Cordell, H. K., Brown, T. L., Rowell, A. L. (1988). The national private land ownership study: Establishing the benchmark. In A. H. Watson (Ed.), Outdoor recreation benchmark 1988: Proceedings of the national outdoor recreation forum, Tampa, FL, January 13–14, 1988 (pp. 33–50). United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service, General Technical Report SE-52.
We thank Thelma Redick for providing historical data and perspective. Gloria Smith provided invaluable assistance with data compilation. We thank Kara Bogden and others at Bacardi-Martini, USA, as well as Shannon Veader and the Conservation Team at Fidelity Investments for sharing their programs as case studies.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Ireland, A.W., Napoli, L.J., Basiotis, K.A. et al. Potential conservation benefits of a voluntary corporate certification program. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 4889–4905 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00411-7
- Wildlife Habitat Council
- Corporate conservation
- Private lands