An Evaluation of Ranch and Farm Operator Attitudes towards Emerging Ecosystem Service Markets in California and Eastern North Carolina

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This master’s project adds to the body of research on potential participation in emerging markets for ecosystem services. In particular, it addresses two questions: 1) Are ranch and farm- operators interested in new payments for ecosystem service (PES) programs in California? 2) Are there differences in rancher and farm-operator attitudes between California and North Carolina? To answer these questions, a survey with156 responses was analyzed to examine the similarities and differences in attitudes towards past, current, and future payments for ecosystem service programs in California. The survey examined the potential use of market-based incentives to encourage greater conservation efforts by private landowners. The results of this survey were then compared to the results from a similar survey in North Carolina. The results show that ranch and farm operators are interested in potential payments for ecosystem service programs and that they will be more likely to participate in programs with shorter contract lengths and higher payment levels. Specifically, for every year added to the contracts, $.81/acre should be provided in additional compensation. The conservation organization was the preferred program administrator in California, followed by a private company, a federal agency, and a state agency. In North Carolina, the preferences for contract length and payments were similar, but the preference for program administrator was the exact opposite, with the state agency being the preferred administrator. The best predictors of potential participation in new PES programs in both states were age and total number of programs currently enrolled in. Young ranchers and farmers who are already enrolled in conservation programs are most likely to participate in future programs.
These results highlight the importance of understanding the preferences of potential participants before implementing new PES programs. In addition, preferences for PES programs may differ by state, and preferences for administrators may differ depending on local relationships. Lastly, outreach needs to be a significant component of payments for ecosystem service programs so that potential participants know what programs are available and how to enroll in them.





Parkhurst, Ben (2011). An Evaluation of Ranch and Farm Operator Attitudes towards Emerging Ecosystem Service Markets in California and Eastern North Carolina. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from

Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.