Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Preferences for Residential Development Attributes and Support for the Policy Process: Implications for Management and Conservation of Rural Landscapes

Academic journal article Agricultural and Resource Economics Review

Preferences for Residential Development Attributes and Support for the Policy Process: Implications for Management and Conservation of Rural Landscapes

Article excerpt

The rural public may not only be concerned with the consequences of land management; residents may also have systematic preferences for policy instruments applied to management goals. Preferences for outcomes do not necessarily imply matching support for the underlying policy process. This study assesses relationships among support for elements of the policy process and preferences for management outcomes. Preferences are examined within the context of alternative proposals to manage growth and conserve landscape attributes in southern New England. Results are based on (a) stated preferences estimated from a multi-attribute contingent choice survey of rural residents, and (b) Likert-scale assessment of strength of support for land use policy tools. Findings indicate general but not universal correlation among policy support indicators and preferences for associated land use outcomes, but also confirm the suspicion that policy support and land use preference may not always coincide.

Key Words: choice experiment, conservation, land use control, policy support, rural development, stated preference

The rural public may not only be concerned with the consequences of land management, they may also have systematic preferences for policy procedures applied to management goals (Abdalla, 2001; Johnston, Swallow, and Weaver, 1999; Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, 2002; McLeod, Woirhaye, and Menkhaus, 1999). There is no guarantee respondents will support policies that are consistent with their stated preferences for land use outcomes. Indeed, respondents may possess strong preferences for management outcomes (e.g., wildlife habitat, public access) while being unwilling to accept the management processes required to generate those outcomes (Johnston, 2002). Despite this possibility, the literature provides little information indicating whether preferences for management outcomes are correlated with support for policies associated with those outcomes.

Consider the example of a scenic, rural viewshed. Residents may have strong preferences for the preservation of scenic amenities, and indeed may be willing to pay to preserve these attributes. However, they may be unwilling to accept changes in zoning or alternative land use regulations required to ensure these outcomes (e.g., required setbacks, increases in required road frontage). Despite a positive willingness to pay (WTP) for the management outcome, a lack of support for associated management tools may preclude welfare-improving policy change.

This study examines relationships among the rural public's support for the policy process and the public's preferences and goals for land management and conservation outcomes. Preferences are considered within the context of alternative proposals to manage residential growth and conserve landscape attributes in southern New England.

Results are based on (a) stated preferences estimated from a multi-attribute choice survey of rural residents,1 and (b) a Likert-scale assessment of strength of support for 21 growth management and conservation tools. Data are drawn from the Rhode Island Rural Land Use Survey-a survey developed and designed by the authors to assess rural residents' tradeoffs among attributes of residential development and conservation.

Description of the Model and Analysis

The choice experiment section of the Rhode Island Rural Land Use Survey asked respondents to consider and choose between two alternative development options for a hypothetical, 400-acre tract of forested land located in their town of residence, an area comprising just over 1% of the land area in each of the four towns sampled. Each presented option could differ across a set of spatial and nonspatial attributes. Analysis of these results provides insight into preferences for development and conservation tradeoffs-or management outcomes.

A subsequent section of the survey asked respondents to indicate their degree of support for, or opposition to, 21 different land use management policy options. …

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