Incorporating landowner preferences into voluntary invasive species eradication programs
On human-inhabited islands eradication is both a complex technical and social issue. Although invasive exotic species destroy agricultural crops, forest products, and compromise other aspects of human health and well-being, they also create significant material and cultural value for societies. Given the increased complexity of eradicating invasives where they co-exist with people, designing effective solutions that meet the needs of stakeholders is a key challenge. The Tierra del Fuego (TDF) archipelago in southern Argentina and Chile provides an informative case study to understand efforts to eradicate the North American beaver (Castor canadensis), an invasive species that has created the largest landscape-scale alteration of the ecoregion in the last 10,000 years. To understand private landowner perceptions, preferences, and potential support for a large-scale eradication campaign we conducted face-to-face surveys of ranchers in TDF to estimate the importance of program structure, administration and the social context in preferences for participating in a beaver eradication program. Using a scenario analysis approach, ranchers jointly considered the role of contract length, requirements for landowner involvement, the implementing organization (government/non-profit), payment level, and information feedbacks (other landowner participation and probability of successful eradication).
We obtained a 74% response rate and used a generalized linear mixed model to estimate the effects of program attributes on ranchers' stated likelihood of participation. Ranchers focused primarily on payment levels, expected success of the program, and required level of participation. For every $10 increase in payments, the odds of participation increase by 1%. Similarly, for every 10% increase in the expected probability that the program would be successful, the odds of a landowner participating increased by 20%. Compared to a program in which ranchers hunt beavers and report their kills to the program, ranchers were twice as likely to prefer a program in which they simply notify administrators about the presence of beavers and then allow the program specialists to access their land to hunt beavers. Program duration, other landowner participation, and implementing organization were not related to participation. Understanding and incorporating stakeholder preferences, perceptions, and beliefs into management strategies is an ongoing challenge for conservation practitioners worldwide. We found that landowners view the structure and anticipated outcomes of a program as their own set of incentives or disincentives for participation. Focusing on landowner needs during the design phase can enhance cooperation and the success of eradication efforts.