Financial analysis of converting rural lawns to pollinator habitat in the U.S. Corn Belt

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management (2021)


Conservation efforts in rural landscapes seek to improve the multifunctional nature of land uses for people and the biotic communities that support them. In these environments, existing turf grass lawns mowed routinely thorough the summer presents an opportunity where changes in management from intensively managed monocultures toward diverse native perennial vegetation can stack environmental benefits by improving soil health, water quality, and wildlife habitat. Conversion of lawns to pollinator habitat can help achieve continental goals of reversing declines in high-profile species like monarch butterflies Danaus plexippus and native bees. Here, we present a study that examines the financial implications for landowners and managers considering conversion of lawns to pollinator habitat in rural landscapes. We examined financial factors over a 10-year management horizon in three unique scenarios with a range of expenses; self-maintenance of lawns, contracted maintenance of lawns, and establishment and management of pollinator habitat. Our analyses indicate conversion to pollinator habitat was appreciably less expensive ($54-$167/acre/year) than continued self-care ($637-$1,007/acre/year) or contracted care ($326-$1034/acre/year) of lawns over a 10-year period. These results establish the financial benefits for landowners or land managers considering an alternative management paradigm of existing lawns. These financial benefits complement existing literature demonstrating multiple ecological benefits of diverse native perennial vegetation.