Tasmanian landowner preferences for conservation incentive programs: A latent class approach

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Journal Article
Journal of Environmental Management, 2011, 92 (10), pp. 2647 - 2656
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An empirical model of landowners' conservation incentive program choice is developed in which information about landowners' socio-economic and property characteristics and their attitudes, is combined with incentive program attributes. In a Choice survey landowners were presented with the choice of two incentive programs modelled as 'bundles of attributes' mimicking a voluntary choice scenario. Landowner behaviour and decision and the type of conditions and regulations they preferred were analyzed. Based on choice survey data, landowner heterogeneity was accounted for using a latent class approach to estimate the preference parameters. Three latent classes of landowners with different attitudes to the role and outcome of establishing conservation reserves on private land were identified: multi-objective owners: environment owners: and production owners. Only a small proportion of landowners, mostly environment owners, would voluntarily join a program. Although compensation funding contributed to voluntary program choice for multi-objective owners and environment owners, welfare losses were around 4000 AUD per hectare, which is less than the average agricultural land value in Tasmania. Landowners for whom compensation funding contributed to voluntary program choice were also most likely to set aside land for conservation without payment. This raises the possibility that the government's compensation expenditure could potentially be either reduced or re-allocated to landowners who will not voluntarily take conservation action. Increasing participation in conservation incentive programs and minimizing the welfare losses associated with meeting conservation targets may be best achieved by offering programs that allow flexibility in terms of legal arrangements and other program attributes.
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