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Incentives for private land conservation


Private land conservation, a conservation concept that is among the most used throughout the United States, gets gradually more applied in Europe as well. In order to further unravel the motives for private landowners to engage in private land conservation, LIFE ELCN organised its second International Workshop. The workshop explored the potential of conservation organisations and public authorities to create positive incentives for motivating private landowners to engage in nature conservation on their land.

To many, the first thing that comes to mind are financial incentives. However, it turned out the motivations were manifold, ranging from conservation ideals to sentiment and tradition. Interestingly, studies have shown that financial motivations often rank at the bottom of the list of reasons why landowners get engaged in private land conservation. During the workshop this was confirmed with both the results of a global level scientific research and a practical example from Burren in Ireland.

The workshop has further examined and compared various tools for creating such incentives: fiscal tools (e.g. taxes and subsidies) that reward conservation on private land, technical / structural incentives (e.g. regional branding and marketing, improved resource management, access to volunteers), and legal incentives (planning reliability, exemption from environmental liability, temporary waiver of species protection, ballot measures). It has presented some best-practice examples of incentivising private land conservation, but it has also touched upon the potential areas of conflict (e.g. national subsidies for conservation and state-aid).

By learning about examples from outside of Europe (i.e. tax incentives and ballot measures in the United States), the workshop provided the opportunity to discuss if similar incentive mechanisms could potentially work in Europe as well, and whether a network such as ELCN could help to realise this.

The workshop was hosted by LIFE ELCN project partner Fundacion Biodiversidad at their premises in Madrid, Spain, and was attended by 39 participants from 12 countries.