Program Awareness, Social Capital, and Perceptions of Trees Influence Participation in Private Land Conservation Programs in Queensland, Australia

Abstract

Voluntary private land conservation (PLC) is becoming an increasingly important complement to state protected areas around the world. PLC programs can serve as valuable strategies to increase biodiversity on agricultural lands, but their effectiveness depends on high participation rates. Amidst growing concerns regarding scalability and effectiveness of conservation strategies like national parks, researchers and practitioners are looking for new strategies to increase adoption of PLC. This study investigates the demographic, social, and psychological factors associated with participation in three classes of voluntary PLC programs—grant payments, land management agreements, and covenants—and how this relates to landholders’ attitudes toward tree clearing. We compare participation rates between these programs in Queensland and identify the most frequently cited reasons why land managers have or have not participated. Land managers who are more involved in agricultural organizations and whose tree clearing decisions are more influenced by the aesthetic value of trees are more likely to have participated in one or more of these programs. Participation was highly biased toward once-off grant payments, and participation in covenants was lowest of all programs. Although 58% of land managers have never participated, nearly half expressed interest in one or more programs. A lack of program knowledge and perceived losses of autonomy were the most frequently cited barriers to participation. We conclude with recommendations for increasing participation rates and raise important questions that need to be answered in order to promote a PLC culture that effectively curbs ongoing habitat degradation.

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Funding

This work was supported by the Discovery and Future Fellowship programs of the Australian Research Council, and the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CE11001000104), funded by the Australian Government.

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Correspondence to B. Alexander Simmons.

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This research project complies with the requirements of the HREC from The University of Queensland (Approval #2017001054).

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Simmons, B.A., Archibald, C.L., Wilson, K.A. et al. Program Awareness, Social Capital, and Perceptions of Trees Influence Participation in Private Land Conservation Programs in Queensland, Australia. Environmental Management (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-020-01321-5

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Keywords

  • Agri-environmental schemes
  • Conservation covenant
  • Deforestation
  • Land clearing
  • Land stewardship
  • Private land conservation