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E. Jane Luzar [*]
Assistant dean and former Graduate Research Assistant, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611-0270
This research provides a behavioral analysis of wetland owners' decision to participate in the Wetland Reserve Program (WRP). The study identifies the WRP as an incentive based land use program that relies on voluntary participation. The role of environmental attitudes in voluntary environmental program participation is addressed using the theory of reasoned action. A probit model is used with data collected from a mail survey of Louisiana wetland owners. Results of the analysis indicate that positive attitudes toward the WRP, acreage of wetlands owned, the level of information about the WRP, ownership of farmed wetlands, involvement in environmental organizations, and income level had a significant and positive influence on the decision to offer to participate in the WRP. Higher levels of education, and number of people living in the household (potential heirs) had an adverse effect on the likelihood to offer wetlands for enrollment in the WRP. (c) 1999 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Wetlands reserve program; Incentive-based mechanisms; Environmental attitudes
The search for environmental management tools able to efficiently address current environmental problems, including the negative role often played by agriculture, has resulted in increased consideration of alternative management strategies in environmental policy directed at agricuture (Anderson & Leal, 1991; Carlson, Zilberman, & Miranowski, 1993). Market based environmentalism is one alternative especially appealing to economists and to policy makers reluctant to extend or expand regulatory management of the environment. Contrary to sometimes ad hoc command and control regulatory policy, free market environmentalism relies on market forces for environmental management. Specific environmental management instruments used within this framework are called incentive-based mechanisms (IBM) or market-based incentives. This approach to the environmental management of agriculture, and especially its conservation efforts, is representative of the next generation of agricultural policy.
2. Incentive-based mechanisms
Incentive-based mechanisms can take various forms. They either rely on the "polluter pays" principle or provide economic compensation to elicit a targeted environmental behavior. IBM strategies influence the behavior of individuals, households and firms by creating a system of penalties and rewards. IBM require clearly defined property rights and make each resource user, owner, or trustee bear the full cost and/or reap the entire benefits of her actions. IBM strategies include green taxes, deposit-refund schemes, emission fees, and individual transferable quotas (Dudek & Palmisano, 1988; Stewart, 1988; Tietenberg, 1990).
In agriculture, market-based environmental strategies have been mainly used to promote desirable behavior through the use of positive economic incentives. For example, in agricultural land policy, conservation and restoration practices are increasingly elicited through the transfer (TDR) or purchase of development rights (PDR). Under a PDR system, the private land owner "voluntarily sells the development rights (also known as conservation easements) and receives compensation for the development restrictions placed on the land" (Daniels, 1991, p. 421). Development rights are. Under TDR arrangements, incentives are provided for temporary development restrictions. TDRs and PDRs were initially created to protect farmland against rapid urbanization and were mainly used as state and local land use policies. Provisions of the 1985 and 1990 Farm Bills revived and reoriented the focus of TDRs and PDRs from state level farmland protection to national conservation and restoration practices. For example, the Conservatio n Reserve Program (CRP) provides compensation, i.e., green payments, for temporary development rights restrictions on highly erodible agricultural land, whereas the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) provides green payments for either permanent or long term easements for wetlands.
The Wetlands Reserve Program, designed after evaluation of the CRP, purchased permanent rather than temporary easements on wetlands. Under the provisions of the WRP, the government was authorized to purchase easements from owners of eligible land who voluntarily agreed to restore and protect farmed wetlands and eligible adjacent acres (USDA, 1992). In this phase of the WRP, the USDA purchased permanent easements from participating wetlands owners offering farmed wetlands, prior converted wetlands, and riparian areas linking wetlands. The USDA paid landowners a fair market value for the enrolled acreage and up to 75% of the costs of wetland restoration to approved wetland conditions. Under the supervision of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the enrolled acreage from this phase of the WRP must be kept in a wetland condition in perpetuity (Carey, Heimlich, & Brazee, 1990).
The implementation of incentive-based conservation programs such as the WRP constitutes another step in the evolution of agricultural environmental policy. The CRP, the Water Bank, and the WRP programs provide positive economic incentives to farmers willing to adopt conservation or restoration practices. However, due to the voluntary nature of incentive-based programs, acceptance and thus participation in these programs is not automatic. Resistance to the use of markets as an environmental management tool may for example, hamper the implementation of incentive-based programs. Reasons for the unwillingness to allow market forces in environmental resource management may alternatively stem from the strong ideological and political attachment to regulation existing in the U.S. (Stewart, 1988) or from a mistrust of market forces (Kelman, 1981).
Attitudes towards the use of markets in environmental management may also play a determining role in the effective implementation of future IBM programs in agriculture. However, to evaluate the role of attitudes in participation decisions, especially those involving IBM's in the context of environmental management, it is necessary to move beyond the simple four item Likert agreement scale frequently used …