Selinske, M. J., Howard, N., Fitzsimons, J. A., Hardy, M. J., Smillie, K., Forbes, J., … & Knight, A. T. (2019). Monitoring and evaluating the social and psychological dimensions that contribute to privately protected area program effectiveness. Biological Conservation, 229, 170-178.
In a nutshell: Conservation landowners exert influence over the biodiversity outcomes of privately protected areas. Understanding why landowners participate, their satisfaction with their involvement, and the challenges they face can improve the effectiveness of these programs.
Privately protected area programs (PPAs) are an increasingly relied upon strategy to conserve biodiversity on private lands. Participating landowners sign long-term or in perpetuity contracts, such as easements or covenants, that protect their land and the biodiversity on it. The original landowners and successor landowners (those that purchase or inherit the PPA) are encouraged or required to manage the land for biodiversity and as such it is important to understand why landowners participate in the PPA program, how they benefit from their involvement, their satisfaction with their involvement and the challenges they face in managing their land for biodiversity.
To provide a snapshot and establish a baseline of these dimensions among Australian PPA landowners the authors surveyed 527 participants of PPA programs in New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria. In addition to asking open-ended questions pertaining to landowners experiences in participating in the PPA program and managing their land for biodiversity, they also adapted and used a psychometric instrument from volunteer psychology, the Volunteer Functions Inventory, to measure landowner motivations and satisfaction. The authors found that landowners participate for multiple reasons including social norms, fulfill values associated with conservation, gain knowledge of best management practices and ensure that their land and its biodiversity is conserved for the long-term. Landowners benefit psychologically from participating in these programs by knowing their legacy is intact and that they have contributed to society in a unique and meaningful way. Most landowners are satisfied but some were dissatisfied (8%), unhappy with development restrictions placed on their land, especially if they were successor landowners, or if they expected more engagement and support from the PPA program. They also found that many landowners struggled with PPA management because of age, financial and time constraints and for some a lack of self-efficacy.
This research highlights why it is necessary to not only understand what motivates landowners to participate in PPA programs but additionally, what sustains their involvement and management practices. To remain effective, PPA programs should be aware of the risks that social and psychological dynamism present- including changing management efficacy, satisfaction and PPA ownership. This research also demonstrates the importance of monitoring and evaluating the social and psychological dimensions of conservation programs that are dependent on continued participant engagement.
Top Picture: Austrodanthonia sp. by Freya Thomas