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Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Research calls for enhancing long-term benefits of Farm Bill conservation incentive programs; Point Blue co-authored

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Recommendations from improving conservation outcomes include:

  • Remove limits on re-enrollments allowed if there are a limited number of landowners interested in the program;
  • Remove limits re-enrollments where landowners must continually apply a practice for conservation outcomes;
  • Prioritize projects where landowners enroll for the long term; and
  • Consider likelihood of persistence [continuing of practices after incentives end] when designing programs.

July 27 2017 see full PhysOrg article here 

Many farmers, ranchers, and landowners rely on voluntary conservation incentive programs within the Farm Bill to make improvements to their land and operations that benefit them, the environment, and society. According to a recent study by researchers from Virginia Tech’s College of Natural Resources and Environment and Point Blue Conservation Science published in the scientific journal Conservation Letters, it is necessary to find ways to sustain the benefits from these practices after the incentive ends. This finding is crucial as Congress discusses the reauthorization of the Farm Bill.

In the United States, federal incentive programs aimed at promoting private land fall under the umbrella of the Farm Bill, a package of legislation that promotes conservation efforts on farms and private lands, among other purposes. Typically taking the form of cash payments, tax credits, or cost-share agreements, these incentive programs allow to participate in conservation activities while maintaining ownership of their land.

Persistence…is the continuation of a conservation practice after incentives from voluntary conservation programs end….

Dayer worked with Seth Lutter, a master’s student in fish and , and Kristin Sesser, Catherine Hickey, and Thomas Gardali from Point Blue Conservation Science, a California-based and research nonprofit, to examine the existing research literature on landowner behavior after incentive programs ended to determine what factors contributed to landowners continuing conservation efforts on their own….

In this study, supported by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, the authors developed five research-based explanations for whether or not persistence outcomes could be expected. The pathways include landowners’ attitudes toward the conservation practices, landowners’ motivations for participating in incentive programs, habit formation, access to resources, and social influences.

…”More research is needed in this social science side of landowner conservation incentive programs“…. Ultimately, incentive programs that assist landowners with benefit the population as a whole.

Private lands is critical,” Dayer said. “Often when we think about land for wildlife, we think about national parks or protected areas, but those are a small proportion. In the U.S., 60 percent of the land is privately owned.“…

Ashley A. Dayer, Seth H Lutter, Kristin A Sesser, Catherine M. Hickey, and Thomas Gardali. Private Landowner Conservation Behavior Following Participation in Voluntary Incentive Programs: Recommendations to Facilitate Behavioral Persistence, Conservation Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1111/conl.12394

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