Academic journal article Rural Society

What Is It like to Take Care of the Land? toward an Understanding of Private Land Conservation

Academic journal article Rural Society

What Is It like to Take Care of the Land? toward an Understanding of Private Land Conservation

Article excerpt

Existing policies for public lands alone are unlikely to reach the conservation goals that governments pursue worldwide (Butchart et al., 2010). Instead, it is increasingly realized that private lands are of vital importance for environ- mental conservation (Norten, 2000). However, compliance-based conservation policies are largely ineffective at reaching these goals on private lands (Brook, Zint, & De Yong, 2003). Many programs and incentives are provided by governments to motivate private landowners for environmental conservation (e.g., Ministry of Natural Resources, 2006). But what motivates private landowners, and in particular non-farm landowners, to use these tools and to engage in conservation is not fully understood (Saunders, Brook, & Myers, 2006). Consequently, this study is aimed at increasing knowledge of pri- vate landowner conservation attitudes and val- ues. This aim is pursued through an inquiry into the relationships of non-farm, private land- owners with the natural environment.

Consequently, the goal of this study was an exploration of the affective relationships of non-farm, private landowners with their land and its natural environment. This goal was pursued by working toward the following two objectives: First, gaining an understanding of the personal context of private landowners' attitudes toward their land and its natural environment. Second, gaining an understanding of private landowners' personal experience of their land and its natu- ral environment. To achieve these objectives, I performed an Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith, Flowers, & Larkin, 2009) of the narrated experiences of private landowner relationships with their land.


Importance of private landowners for conservation

Habitat loss through land conversion for agri- culture, residential developments and industrial expansion is one of the major threats for bio- logical diversity globally (Noss, LaRoe, & Scott, 1995). Governments have responded to this threat in a variety of ways, such as promoting con- servation research, enacting legislation, providing educational programs and assisting landowners in conservation (Zhand & Flick, 2001). This is true for the North American (Theobald & Hobbs, 2002) and European (Bowers, 1999) context as well as the global South (Gallo, Pasquini, Reyers, & Cowling, 2009).

Recent socio-economic dynamics have led to a rapid increase in urban populations, changing work patterns and rising urban income levels (Satterthwaite, McGranahan, & Tacoli, 2010). These dynamics lead to outward pressure and mainly unplanned land development (Gallent, Bianconi, & Andersson, 2006) in near-urban rural areas and beyond (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 2009). These processes can lead to conflicts between propo- nents of land use change and opponents of such developments who are concerned about the loss of rural identity and lifestyles (Halseth, 1996). When residential development is not in the form of urban sprawl, but as single residences in near- urban rural areas, residential lots are often sited on marginal agricultural lands (Huston, 2005). While less productive, these lots are often char- acterized by habitat features such as streams, wetlands or ravines, which are interesting for conservation purposes because of their contribu- tions to habitat diversity (Ministry of Natural Resources, 2006). Because of the increasing numbers of non-farm, private landowners and the typically high habitat diversity contributed by their properties, environmental conservation by non-farm, private landowners is becoming increasingly important.

However, private landowners present challenges to environmental conservation. This may be because of their reluctance to engage with conservation ini- tiatives for fear of interference with their use and enjoyment of the land (Raymond & Olive, 2008), and often for their inability to take part in conser- vation efforts because of economic pressures (Innes & Frisvold, 2009). …

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