Assessing Conservation Easement Landowners Adoption of Thinning

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The Natural Resources Conservation Service has overseen several conservation easement programs in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV), which have the primary objective to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands functions and to protect conservation values, such as wildlife habitat. Promotion of thinning in forests reaching or past canopy closure improves habitat conditions in forests under conservation easement. This study explicitly explores determinants that influence easement landowner voluntary adoption of thinning and characterizes landowners who are unwilling to thin in terms of management concerns, objective interference, and other reasons. The willingness-to-thin models demonstrated that membership in conservation organizations, different income expectations from thinning, and investment objectives positively influence landowners’ willingness to thin, whereas being an original easement grantor decreases the likelihood to thin such that subsequent landowners who will inherit or purchase the easement will be more willing to conduct thinning. Study results also indicated that landowners who had recreation as an ownership objective are less likely to adopt thinning, having important long-term implications for managing the forest in the easements. Findings from this study could be used to improve efforts to design and conduct educational interventions that promote forest health and wildlife habitat needs in the LMAV easements.

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Forest Science

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