COS 129-1
Status of environmental stewardship behaviour on private land and opportunities for governmental conservation programs in Ontario, Canada

Friday, August 15, 2014: 8:00 AM
309/310, Sacramento Convention Center
Zachary S. M. Bogdon, School of Planning, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada
Michael Drescher, School of Planning, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada
G. Keith Warriner, Department of Sociology and Legal Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada

The clearing of natural habitat for human consumption and use is one of the leading causes of biodiversity loss worldwide. To attenuate these threats, governments often set aside large parcels of public land such as conservation areas or national parks. Aside from measures for public lands, direct regulation, voluntary, and incentive-based programs may be applied to address biodiversity loss on private land. However, the stewardship behaviour of landowners is not well understood and a better understanding could help to improve the effectiveness of existing conservation programs. In this study, we asked what the current state of stewardship activities is on private land and how landowners can be better engaged in environmental stewardship behaviour? To answer these questions, we used an extensive mail survey that was rolled out to 1,200 private, non-farming landowners. Study participants included residents of Southern and Central Ontario, Canada, who are eligible for two conservation tax incentive programs of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Both programs offer a reduction in property taxes for eligible participants. We utilized multiple linear regression models and logistic regression models to investigate relationships between survey variables.


Our results indicate that many landowners may lack detailed knowledge regarding environmental stewardship behaviour. For example, while respondents indicated that they engaged in removal of invasive species and active provision of native species, they did not realize that their efforts also helped to increase natural habitat for wildlife (or vice versa). On the other hand, our results suggest that many landowners see environmental stewardship as their personal responsibility. Though landowners might not participate in voluntary programs if there were no incentives, they would still engage in environmental stewardship activities even without monetary compensation. However, landowners tend to engage only in a subset of the stewardship activities in which they could potentially participate. It may therefore be useful if conservation programs would differentiate between the wide range of stewardship activities and at an individual level support those behaviours that are currently less well developed. Overall, the results show evidence that a blanket approach to addressing biodiversity loss on private land will be ineffective. To improve the effectiveness of governmental conservation programs, it would be helpful to target them at specific stewardship behaviours and combine them with improved communication with landowners.