Wildlife and Recreation Boost Rural Land Values

Habitat Improvement and Increasing Wildlife Add Quantifiable Value to Rural Properties

Land investors great and small know well the importance of location when choosing a property. What is less well known is the degree to which wildlife can add to the value of a property.

Wildlife is so much more than an add-on to land that makes for beautiful photo opportunities. It adds tangible, monetary value to an investment. Working to increase the wildlife on a property through habitat improvement can translate into increased yearly income and an increase in the sales price.

Wildlife Impact on Rural Land

Researchers at Mississippi State University conducted a survey from 2003 to 2008 to find the wildlife-related impacts on rural land values in Mississippi. 

The researchers set out to find the type of parcels purchased during the 5 year period. They found that the majority of properties were forested (45 percent), followed by agricultural lands (26 percent). Other property features consisted of weedy areas, grasslands, old fields or pastures, shrub thickets, and young forests (25 percent).

Next, the researchers asked purchasers of private rural land—acquired during the time period for recreational uses—how they were using the land. Almost all of the land (99 percent) was used for hunting. Motorized vehicle use came in second (65 percent), and fishing came in third (12 percent). Other uses were horseback riding (10 percent), wildlife watching (5 percent), and nature-based activities such as camping and hiking (1 percent).

Once property type and land use were identified, researchers asked reputable institutions and professionals—banks, real estate firms, lenders, and appraisers—to estimate the value of each tract of land sold, without considering wildlife-related recreation as a sale component. Combined, they estimated that these properties would have sold for an average of $3,065/ha each. However, in reality, the properties examined sold for an average of $4,631/ha each. Stated otherwise, the wildlife-related recreational value accounted for an estimated $1,566/ha extra per property at the time of sale. This translates into an added 34 percent more value at the time of sale.

The researchers found that during the period examined, the prices paid for the recreational function of the land had increased. In other words, this suggests that demand for well-managed properties that support wildlife for recreational use will only increase with time. 

Bottom Line

Wildlife recreation is a boon for families who want to spend more time in the great outdoors. They enjoy the opportunity to be active together as a family and indulge in all the health benefits that nature offers. Additionally, they can enjoy the potential of multiple income streams from their land, and accrue considerable gains whenever they decide to sell.

Besides the monetary implications, the intrinsic value of managing a property for wildlife can be measured by the years of personal memories made outdoors. It also brings with it a certain pride in having cared for something larger than oneself that can be enjoyed by generations to come.

Caleb Risinger is a Land Professional with National land Realty licensed in Florida and based in Jacksonville, Florida.