Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

For land conservation, formal and informal relationships influence success

Date:
October 31, 2011
Source:
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Summary:
Are easements the most efficient way to conserve land and biodiversity? What easement structures are the most effective? Scientists compared two large easement projects dominated by grazing land: the Malpai Borderlands Group, straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border, and the Nature Conservancy's Lassen Foothills, in northern California and found some interesting results.

During the past decade, voluntary contracts called conservation easements have become a popular method for conserving land. Embodied in an agreement between landowners and a government or non-governmental organization, these easements have differing goals, structures and financial arrangements.

As the area protected by easements has grown to 30 million acres, questions have multiplied. Are easements the most efficient way to conserve land and biodiversity? What easement structures are the most effective?

The answers are difficult to obtain, says Adena Rissman, an assistant professor in Forest and Wildlife Ecology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, who began exploring easements about 10 years ago.

"It's become clear that easements are not going to be easy to assess, compared to common park or wilderness area models, given the diverse goals, processes, and financing," Rissman says.

In a study published in late September in the journal Society and Natural Resources, Rissman and Nathan Sayre of the University of California compared two large easement projects dominated by grazing land: the Malpai Borderlands Group, straddling the Arizona-New Mexico border, and The Nature Conservancy's Lassen Foothills, in northern California.

Each project has more than 80,000 acres under easements, but they have differing origins, structures and conservation requirements, Rissman says. The borderlands project was intended to preserve habitat for the ranchers who had sold easements to a land trust that they control. The foothills easements are held by The Nature Conservancy, which helped fund Rissman's research and has explicit biodiversity conservation goals.

Although Rissman has long been interested in the efficacy of easements, her goal in this study was to explore the social relationships that helped or hindered progress, using interviews with landowners, conservation organizations, and scientists.

Social relationships, she says, affect the nature, terms and methods of the easement agreement, even when the easements have broadly similar goals in conserving grazing land.

"In comparing the two cases, we assumed that landowner goals and land trust goals were more closely aligned for Malpai than for Lassen, since in Malpai, landowners make up the majority of the land trust board," Rissman says. "So we expected to find that the Malpai easements would contain fewer restrictions, that the restrictions would be behavior-based rather than performance-based, and that the monitoring would be less intensive, and this matches pretty closely what we found."

Also as expected, Rissman adds, Lassen contained a greater focus on direct conservation outcomes.

The surprising thing, Rissman says, was "the important role of informal, personal relationships. These were a stronger driver of conservation outcomes in Malpai, where ranchers were working together to raise funds for research and land management."

The tight social relationships at Malpai Borderlands existed long before the easements were written, Rissman says.

"Malpai is a unique organization created by a unique confluence of events, a longstanding effort to bring together the landowners to support their relations with governmental agencies that own a great deal of land in the region, and from which the ranchers lease large areas," Rissman says.

The Lassen project is more typical, with diverse landowners, and the easement process tended to strengthen social relationships that were looser to begin with, Rissman says. "The existing social situation of each area helped determine how the land trust worked with landowners, and that affected the ability to meet conservation goals. Malpai was more concerned with preserving the grazing character of the land, and its major outcome was to limit building; the easements contained few restrictions on how ranchers managed their land."

Beyond restricting development, the Lassen easements prohibited the scraping and collection of volcanic rock from the grasslands, and required some landowners to install cattle-proof fences along streams to reduce erosion and water pollution. Lassen also had an enforceable requirement that landowners retain a certain amount of stubble through the winter to prevent erosion.

Particularly at Malpai, having outside advice and expertise was key to success, Rissman says. "Consultants and scientists participated; this was not a do-it-yourself project."

As far as can be told, both projects are meeting their goals, which reflects both a workable structure and effective management of social relationships, Rissman says. "When we design and evaluate conservation programs, we need to pay close attention to these relationships, both formal and informal. Land managers need to account for more than just trees and birds. This is not just about resources, it's also about managing relationships among people."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Wisconsin-Madison. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Adena R. Rissman, Nathan F. Sayre. Conservation Outcomes and Social Relations: A Comparative Study of Private Ranchland Conservation Easements. Society & Natural Resources, 2011; 1 DOI: 10.1080/08941920.2011.580419

Cite This Page:

University of Wisconsin-Madison. "For land conservation, formal and informal relationships influence success." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220611.htm>.
University of Wisconsin-Madison. (2011, October 31). For land conservation, formal and informal relationships influence success. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220611.htm
University of Wisconsin-Madison. "For land conservation, formal and informal relationships influence success." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/10/111031220611.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Positive Ebola News: Outbreak 'Contained' In Nigeria

Some Positive Ebola News: Outbreak 'Contained' In Nigeria

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) The CDC says a new case of Ebola has not been reported in Nigeria for more than 21 days, leading to hopes the outbreak might be nearing its end. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Ebola Mission Head: Immediate Action Is Crucial

UN Ebola Mission Head: Immediate Action Is Crucial

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) The newly appointed head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Anthony Banbury, outlines operations to tackle the virus. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Confirms First Case of Ebola in US

CDC Confirms First Case of Ebola in US

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) The CDC has confirmed the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States. The patient is being treated at a Dallas hospital after traveling earlier this month from Liberia. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

Argentina's Tax Evaders Detected, Hunted Down by Drones

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) Argentina doesn't only have Lionel Messi the footballer, it has now also acquired "Mesi" the drone system which monitors undeclared mansions, swimming pools and soy fields to curb tax evasion in the country. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Science & Society

Business & Industry

Education & Learning

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins