Opportunities and barriers for endangered species conservation using payments for ecosystem services

Aaron M. Lien, Colleen Ulibarri, Wendy Vanasco, George B. Ruyle, Scott Bonar, Laura López-Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Endangered species laws seek to prevent extinction by outlawing actions that may cause harm or lead to extinction. In doing so, these laws are sometimes criticized for limiting management flexibility and subjecting landowners to regulatory burdens. One proposed solution to this challenge is development of payment for ecosystem service (PES) programs. These programs provide an economic incentive to conserve endangered species by compensating landowners for the costs of conservation or forgoing other profitable uses of land and resources. To assess the utility of PES as a means of overcoming opposition to endangered species regulations, we surveyed ranch operators in Arizona and New Mexico facing new regulations related to endangered jaguars (Panthera onca). Our findings suggest that PES cannot overcome the perceived burdens of species protection regulations and are unlikely to increase collaboration between landowners and government agencies. PES approaches are only likely to succeed where there is strong fit between institutional design and resource manager preferences. In the context of endangered species, PES proponents must pay particular attention to institutional arrangements that reduce concerns about regulatory risk. To this end, to effectively meet endangered species conservation goals, we recommend: 1) framing PES programs as voluntary conservation incentives, 2) focusing incentives on healthy ecosystems rather than a single species, and 3) using private funding to support incentives. Under these circumstances, PES may be an effective endangered species conservation tool.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)74-82
Number of pages9
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • Endangered species
  • Jaguars
  • Payments for ecosystem services
  • Rangeland management
  • Wildlife conservation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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