Conservation development projects combine real-estate development with conservation of land and other natural resources. Thousands of such projects have been conducted in the United States and other countries through the involvement of private developers, landowners, land trusts, and government agencies. Previous research has demonstrated the potential value of conservation development for conserving species, ecological functions, and other resource values on private lands, especially when traditional sources of conservation funding are not available. Nevertheless, the aggregate extent and effects of conservation development were previously unknown. To address this gap, we estimated the extent and trends of conservation development in the United States and characterized its key attributes to understand its aggregate contribution to land-conservation and growth-management objectives. We interviewed representatives from land trusts, planning agencies, and development companies, searched the Internet for conservation development projects and programs, and compiled existing databases of conservation development projects. We collected data on 3884 projects encompassing 1.38 million ha. About 43% of the projects targeted the conservation of specific plant or animal species or ecological communities of conservation concern; 84% targeted the protection of native ecosystems representative of the project area; and 42% provided buffers to existing protected areas. The percentage of protected land in conservation development projects ranged from <40% to >99%, and the effects of these projects on natural resources differed widely. We estimate that conservation development projects have protected roughly 4 million ha of land in the United States and account for about 25% of private-land conservation activity nationwide. © 2011 Society for Conservation Biology. Abstract reproduced by permission.