An analysis of the prerequisites for landowner participation in conservation oriented programs in the Wood River Valley, Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/s1784n76n

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  • Before 2002, almost all of the approximately 40,000 acres of land in the Wood River Valley, Oregon were used for intensive, flood-irrigated summer cattle grazing, as it had been for over 100 years. Conservation activity in the valley was limited to a couple of wealthy landowners. But a year after the 2001 Klamath Basin "water crisis," a local non-profit water conservation organization, the Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust (KBRT), was formed in the Wood River Valley, with the intention of working to restore local natural resources and improve land and water quality and quantity throughout the Basin. Since KBRT's introduction to the valley in 2002, twelve local landowners, whose acreage comprises almost 30% of the valley, have been consistently enrolled in various federal and state conservation and restoration programs. Their participation has effected significant land management changes that have improved the quality and quantity of land and water in the Wood River Valley. Nonetheless, there are still several landowners who choose not to participate. Determining what motivates ranchers to participate in programs that facilitate their adoption of conservation practices is valuable in encouraging more widespread sustainable agricultural production, and developing more agriculturally appealing conservation-oriented programs in the future. Relevant literature reveals landowners' socio-economic status, values and attitudes, landownership characteristics, and conservation knowledge are important factors influencing their conservation decisions and behavior. However, available research does not study the direct influence a capacitating organization like KBRT has on landowner participation in conservation programs. This thesis is designed to address this lack of data by analyzing what motivates landowners in the Wood River Valley, Oregon to participate or abstain from participation in government sponsored, conservation oriented programs. The hypothesis is that in addition to various socio-economic, attitudinal, and landownership characteristics, KBRT’s presence in the valley is a principle reason why landowners choose to participate in conservation programs. To investigate this hypothesis, and determine why some landowners participate in conservation programs and some do not, this case-study evaluates how various socio-economic, landownership, value and knowledge-based factors influence Wood River Valley landowners' willingness and ability to incorporate conservation practices into their existing operations. To measure the influence of various factors on landowner participation in conservation programs, I interviewed seventeen landowners in the Wood River Valley who either participate or have chosen not to participate in government sponsored conservation oriented programs. To gauge the degree of influence different factors have on landowner participation, I asked project participants a series of semi-structured interview questions relating to each of the factors. I then coded and analyzed the interviews, and incorporated information gathered from my literature review to explore what motivates landowners' decisions regarding participation in conservation oriented programs, and to learn whether KBRT's presence relates to landowner participation. As discussion of the interview results and analysis will reveal, the ten landowners interviewed who participate in conservation programs reveal economic incentives provided by the programs, landownership characteristics, personal values, and the influence of KBRT to be the primary reasons why they choose to participate in conservation programs. Therefore, the original hypothesis that an enabling organization like KBRT is critical to landowner participation is supported. The hypothesis is mediated by participating landowners’ perceptions of such an organization. The seven landowners interviewed who do not participate in conservation programs reveal that their personal opinions and philosophical values against externally driven conservation practices and programs are the most significant deterrents to their participation in conservation programs
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