Private Landowner Conservation Behavior Following Participation in Voluntary Incentive Programs: Recommendations to Facilitate Behavioral Persistence
Voluntary incentive programs are a keystone policy tool for increasing private landowner conservation behavior. Although landowner participation in conservation incentive programs is well studied, limited empirical research has focused on whether and why landowners continue to conduct conservation practices on their land after payments end, which we term persistence. The assumption is that a landowner who participates in an incentive program will likely continue the conservation practice after the payments end. This assumption fits with conservation policies that limit the number of years or times a landowner can receive payments for a given practice. If persistence occurs, it would provide cost-effective outcomes from conservation funding investments. However, there is little published information to support persistence. Based on the narrow body of research on persistence of landowner conservation behavior, as well as persistence research in other fields, we identified five pathways that may support persistence outcomes and insights for when persistence could be expected. We then provide recommendations for policy, practice, and research.With billions of dollars invested annually in programs to incentivize landowners to take conservation action, an empirical examination of landowner conservation behavior persistence is sorely needed for shaping more effective incentive programs and policies.