Conservation Brings Windfall to Songbirds and Coastal Commerce

Decades of funding and technical support from the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program save migratory songbird habitat and help funnel millions of extra dollars into the coastal ecotourism economy.

The journeys of migratory songbirds along the U.S. East Coast are difficult at best, and numbers of many species have declined sharply. One factor is widespread habitat loss, which shrinks the available spots where birds can rest and refuel during migrations to Central and South America. For three decades, grants and technical assistance from the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program have strengthened a partnership that has preserved thousands of acres of songbird habitat. A 2016 economic analysis shows that land conservation efforts also bring hundreds of millions of extra dollars into Virginia’s coastal economy.

The multi-partner conservation effort has been so successful, in fact, that its new name—Virginia Eastern Shore Conservation Alliance—reflects a mission to expand beyond the shore’s southern tip.

Economists from George Mason University and Urban Analytics used a grant from Virginia’s coastal zone program to uncover the added benefits, by sector, of Eastern Shore land conservation efforts:

  • Economic activities associated with land conservation—such as natural areas, wildlife refuges, and park operations—benefited from nearly $22 million in added spending
  • Economic activities associated with aquaculture—which land conservation supports by improving water quality—yielded $156 million in extra spending
  • Economic activities associated with tourism generated an extra $51 million in extra spending because of land conservation efforts (2020)

Partners: Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Departments of Conservation & Recreation and Game & Inland Fisheries, Virginia Eastern Shore Land Trust