Environmental Management

, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 270–281 | Cite as

Young Forest Conservation Incentive Programs: Explaining Re-Enrollment and Post-program Persistence

  • Seth H. LutterEmail author
  • Ashley A. Dayer
  • Jeffery L. Larkin


Environmental conservation actions conducted by private landowners are critically important for conservation efforts worldwide. Incentive programs are used to engage landowners in voluntary conservation, but outcomes after landowners exit these programs are poorly understood. Previous research identified several pathways, including landowner motivations, cognitions, and resources, which could sustain or undermine continued conservation management behavior after incentive program participation. We tested the utility of these pathways for explaining management intentions of participants in U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) young forest habitat conservation programs in the eastern United States. We conducted a telephone survey of enrolled landowners in the programs from January to May 2017 (n = 102). We compared candidate multiple regression models to determine variables explaining landowner intentions to re-enroll in young forest programs or to persist with management without further cost-share. We found intentions to re-enroll in NRCS young forest programs were highest among landowners with high agency trust, and for whom cost-share, environmental concerns, and hunting were important motivations. Management persistence intentions were highest for group landowners (e.g., hunting clubs and nonprofits), landowners motivated by environmental concerns, and those less motivated by cost-share. Our results suggest that fostering trust through positive program experiences and recruiting landowners with supportive motivations and resources may encourage sustained young forest management. Differences in variables explaining program re-enrollment and management persistence in this study highlight the importance of considering these outcomes separately for conservation programs widely.


Conservation behavior Conservation policy Habitat management Incentives Private landowners 



We thank the landowners who participated in the study, and the NRCS leadership and field offices who provided support and enthusiasm for our work. We acknowledge the contributions of Emily Heggenstaller, Renae Veasley, and Callie Bertsch to the research. We thank Marc Stern, Mark Ford, and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier draft. This project was funded by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service Conservation Effects Assessment Project [] (Award #68-7482-15-501 awarded to JL and AD). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Compliance With Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fish & Wildlife ConservationVirginia TechBlacksburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of BiologyIndiana University of PennsylvaniaIndianaUSA
  3. 3.American Bird ConservancyThe PlainsUSA

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