First Advisor

Max Nielsen-Pincus

Date of Publication

Spring 7-7-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Science and Management


Environmental Science and Management




Watershed management -- Oregon -- Clackamas River Watershed -- Case studies, Rural landowners -- Oregon -- Clackamas River Watershed -- Attitudes -- Case studies, Incentives in conservation of natural resources, Environmental protection -- Citizen participation, Environmental protection -- Study and teaching, Payments for ecosystem services



Physical Description

1 online resource (vii, 112 pages)


Public water utilities are tasked with providing high quality, inexpensive water often sourced from watersheds representing a diverse mix of public and private land ownership. There is increasing recognition amongst water resource managers of the role that private landowners play in determining downstream water quality, but bringing together landowners with a wide variety of land management objectives under the umbrella of watershed stewardship has proven difficult. Recently, a large number of "Payment for Watershed Services" programs have aimed to engage private landowners in watershed stewardship initiatives by offering financial incentives for adopting watershed best management practices. However, a growing field of research suggests that financial incentives alone may be of limited utility to encourage widespread and long-standing behavior change, and instead understanding landowner attitudes and non-financial barriers to stewardship program enrollment has become a focus of research.

This research examines a population of rural landowners representing a diversity of agricultural, forestry, recreational, and investment objectives in the Clackamas River watershed, Oregon. I designed and distributed a mail and web-based survey instrument intended to measure land uses and land ownership objectives, attitudes towards watershed stewardship programs, barriers to enrollment in stewardship programs, and preferred incentives and goals that would promote enrollment. I received 281 valid responses for a response rate of 29%. I conducted two primary analyses: one focused on relating attitudes and barriers to intent to enroll in a watershed stewardship program, and one focused on identifying how diverse landowners differ according to factors influencing enrollment in stewardship programs. I found that landowners did not report financial considerations to be a primary barrier to enrollment and expressed low interest in receiving financial incentives. Instead, landowners reported that primary barriers related to lack of trust, ecological understanding, and concerns that stewardship program enrollment would be incompatible with their land management objectives. I do not discount the potential utility of financial incentives under certain circumstances, but emphasize the importance of addressing these other considerations before incentives can make a meaningful impact.

I compared how barriers to enrollment were perceived by landowners with different land management objectives relating to production, investment, and conservation. I found that landowner attitudes were differentiated from one another primarily by their use of land for production purposes; however, I found a large amount of diversity between producers and non-producers in the degree to which they considered investment and conservation objectives in their land management, and these two variables added further explanatory power to understanding fine-scale differences in how landowner typologies relate to conservation programs.


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