Conservation Behavior of Private Landowners: Responses to an Endangered Species Act Listing

EPA Grant Number: U915228
Title: Conservation Behavior of Private Landowners: Responses to an Endangered Species Act Listing
Investigators: Brook, Amara T.
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through January 1, 2000
Project Amount: $68,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Urban Planning , Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice


The objectives of this research project are to: (1) identify the factors that are most important in private landowners' decisions whether or not to conserve their land; and (2) build a decisionmaking model based on these factors. This model can be used to suggest policy interventions that can most effectively facilitate the conservation of private land.


One existing policy that is intended to conserve private land is the Endangered Species Act (ESA). How do landowners respond when a species is listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA? Conventional wisdom asserts, based on anecdotal evidence, that when landowners perceive a threat of regulation, they "shoot, shovel, and shut-up." However, other people think that landowners react to species listings by acting to help the species so that they will recover and be delisted. I am examining landowners' reactions to the listing of the Preble's meadow jumping mouse (Zapus hudsonius preblei) as a threatened species. Are landowners changing their land management or taking other actions in response to the listing? Are these actions beneficial or harmful to the species? What factors are important in determining landowners' responses to this listing? I am using in-person interviews and a mail survey to address these questions. The open-ended interview results were used to develop closed-ended questions for the mail survey. This survey was sent to a random sample of regulated landowners that was obtained by overlaying data on regulated areas and parcel ownership using geographic information systems.

Based on the interviews, responses to the Preble's listing include doing nothing, allowing or refusing a survey for the species, attending public meetings, hiring legal counsel, consulting conservation organizations or government agencies, and discussing the listing with peers and contacting government officials. Factors important in deciding how to respond to the listing include aesthetic preferences, beliefs, prior behavior, economics, lack of information, emotional investment in current land uses, desire to preserve an agricultural lifestyle, concerns about regulatory equity, reactance against regulation, peer pressure, attitudes toward the federal government, lack of time, and importance of water and species bias.

The mail survey questions are intended to help clarify the relationships between the decision factors and the ways in which landowners have responded to the Preble's listing. Based on the survey data, I will build a model describing the roles that the different factors play in landowners' decisions about how to respond to the threatened listing.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, conservation, private landowners, Endangered Species Act, decisionmaking, endangered species, land management, geographic information systems, GIS, land use., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, POLLUTION PREVENTION, sustainable development, Resources Management, decision-making, Urban and Regional Planning, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, policy making, environmental decision making, decision making, landowner behavior, Endangered Species Act, conservation, environmental policy, environmental law, environmental protection, behavior model, landowners

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • 1998
  • Final