To support conservation planning, we ask whether a park’s impact on deforestation varies with observable characteristics that planners could use to prioritize sites. Using matching methods to avoid common biases in impact estimation, we find that deforestation impact varies with site characteristics. Avoided deforestation is greater on parks located closer to the capital city, on land closer to a national road, and on flatter land. In allocating scarce conservation resources, policy makers have to consider many factors, such as ecosystem services provided by a site and the costs of acquiring a site. Holding such factors fixed, Pfaff et al. 2004 conjecture that impact can be raised by protecting first, in a sequencing of protection, the sites less likely to survive outside parks. We provide empirical support for this argument in the context of Costa Rica’s renowned park system. This insight, combined with information on eco-services and land costs, should guide investments.
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