Working Papers

Garcia, Alberto, Robert Heilmayr. “Conservation impact evaluation using remotely sensed data” (Link)

Presented at BIOECON XXII, submitted

Conservation scientists are increasingly measuring the impacts of conservation interventions by applying quasi-experimental impact evaluation to remotely sensed panel data on land use change. However, these applications come with new challenges. Using Monte Carlo simulations and analytical proofs, we demonstrate that many of the panel econometric models employed for conservation impact evaluation are biased - the significance, magnitude and even direction of estimated effects from many studies are likely incorrect. These errors threaten to undermine the evidence base that underpins conservation policy adoption and design. We review the methods in this burgeoning literature and develop guidance for the design of econometric models quantifying conservation policy effectiveness.

Garcia, Alberto, Robert Heilmayr. “Targeting for compliance and impact in Chilean payments for native reforestation” (Draft available upon request)

Widespread reforestation has become an important part of global efforts to address the intertwined challenges posed by climate change, biodiversity loss, and rural poverty. In response to concerns that plantations of exotic species may undermine objectives of increased carbon storage, biodiversity, and community involvement, some policies have sought to reforest with native species. We evaluate land cover impacts of a Chilean federal program that pays landowners to reforest their property with native species and prioritizes and targets for program co-benefits such as the engagement of smallholders and indigenous peoples. Panel data for program beneficiaries and comparable unawarded properties allow us to control for fixed differences and time trends affecting both groups using difference-in-differences methods that avoid concerns surrounding heterogeneous treatment effects. We find that the program increased vegetation cover on the properties of both smallholders and larger landowners, however, program compliance was rather low. The underlying correlation between compliance, environmental impact, and a program's targeting strategy can enhance or create tension in terms of program benefits. This highlights the difficulty of targeting for reforestation in contrast to avoided deforestation, where program impact is driven by the presence of deforestation risk and incentivizing a lack of action rather than actual behavior changes.


In Prep

  • Big fish in the small pond: manipulation at smallholder eligibility cutoffs in Chilean payments for reforestation

  • Education benefits of tree cover: evidence from tree loss in metropolitan Chicago