revenue from that endowment would be divided among the conservation areas and used to cover operating costs, with any remaining income plowed back into the fund for growth. Although the financing would operate at a national and international scale, the plan calls for decentralized local administration of the individual conservation areas. This plan, with an endowment as its centerpiece, simultaneously redresses most of the frequently cited shortcomings of conservation areas: it aims to make them bigger, closer together, better administered, and essentially free to their users (aside from the opportunity cost of the land use).
It is an ambitious goal, to be sure. The price tag is steep by traditional conservation standards, but with many U.S. research universities boasting endowments in the multiple billions of dollars, $500 million to conserve 25% of a nation and 4% of global biodiversity forever—creating the world’s first explicitly green country in the process—seems like a bargain. It remains to be seen whether the plan can be implemented in small, stable, “green” Costa Rica, much less anywhere else; we will not know until money is pledged. In any event, perpetual endowment funds have tremendous potential in conservation [e.g., as a source of revenue for restoration and other projects; Spergel (2002) and Schuyt (2005)] and will generally increase the “localization” and longevity of conservation initiatives by tying funds to long-term programs in particular areas.
Unbroken tracts of conserved wild area, if they exist, will always be the greatest reservoirs of biodiversity and the most interesting places to visit. But under certain conditions, human-dominated pastoral and agricultural landscapes can also harbor an appreciable amount of biodiversity (Western, 1989; Pimentel et al., 1992; Daily et al., 2001). Simple and inexpensive management techniques, such as maintaining living hedges around agricultural plots (Robinson and Sutherland, 2002) and preserving remnant trees in pasture (Luck and Daily, 2003), can often buttress the biodiversity of these areas.
There are many compelling reasons to conserve countryside biodiversity. One is that most human-dominated landscapes will not revert to wildness anytime soon; enabling wild populations to persist in these areas is the best plausible outcome for biodiversity. Another is that habitat types vary in their tolerance of human activity. Whereas tropical forests are quite sensitive to burning, wood chopping, and hunting, tropical savannas are relatively resilient to anthropogenic disturbance. In many parts of Africa, much or most wildlife occurs outside of nationally protected areas (Western, 1989), and wildlife can coexist alongside limited livestock populations (Georgiadis et al., 2007). That people also share this