Multiple-Knapsack Optimization in Land Conservation: Results from the First Cost-effective Conservation Program in the United States

Kent D. Messer, Maik Kecinski, Xing Tang and Robert H. Hirsch IV


Conservation groups often piece together their parcel selections by combining funds from multiple sources. When applying multiple-knapsack optimization, substantial increases in conservation benefits, acreage, and number of parcels preserved can be achieved. Specifically, we show that multiple-knapsack optimization substantially outperforms benefit targeting, cost-effectiveness analysis, and sequential binary integer programming. This study uses data from the first known cost-effective land conservation program in the United States—in Baltimore County, Maryland—and shows that multiple-knapsack optimization can deliver additional benefits. (JEL D61, Q24)

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