Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Master of Science

Department

Forestry

First Advisor

Williard, Karl

Abstract

Many grassroots efforts across the U.S. are converging on a balance between ecological systems and cultural backgrounds for watershed management. Watershed planning requires the integration of biophysical, social and economic resources and information. Although research and technology are available with the overall intentions of improving water quality, many stakeholders are hesitant to implement best management practices (BMPs). It is important that human dimensions be incorporated into each phase of the planning process to increase a sense of ownership of the plan and successful implementation of plan conservation practices. Effective management plans are inclusive of resources within the respective watersheds but must also include local stakeholder knowledge and values for successful implementation. The objectives of this study were to identify the motivations for and constraints to adopting conservation practices by agricultural producers in the Rayse Creek watershed and secondly, to address the influence of cost-share programs on the producers' adoption behaviors. The study also examined adoption behaviors when cost-share programs were available. Seventeen Rayse Creek agricultural producers were interviewed between June 14 and September 21, 2005. Snowball sampling techniques were used to recruit participants. Those interviewed either rented or owned small farms (800 acres or less) or large farms (1000 acres or more) in the watershed. A short survey was administered to gather participant characteristics such as zip code, age, income, and level of education. Each interview was transcribed verbatim and qualitative analysis procedures were used for coding, extracting themes, and developing a conceptual framework for identifying and interpreting meanings (Marshall and Rossman 1999). The findings from this research reflect the perceptions of the agricultural producers from the Rayse Creek watershed in southern Illinois. The primary motivations for adoption were related to the financial, environmental and time-saving benefits perceived to be associated with implementing conservation practices. Participants admitted that they implemented conservation practices because the cost-share programs supplied them with additional money, the program's practices kept soil on their land and also allowed them to finish their work in the fields quicker. The constraints that emerged were associated with perceptions that producers were already doing enough to conserve, that practices were unsuitable for their land and farming systems, and that these practices caused financial burden and were time consuming. Information about the environmental benefits of cost-share programs was available; however, an individual's values and market economics can take precedence when deciding to adopt conservation practices. The implications from this study need to be considered by agency personnel and land managers when developing policies and watershed implementation plans in agriculturally dominated watersheds similar to Rayse Creek. In addition, cost-share programs should emphasize the long-term benefits of conservation practices versus merely touting the short-term financial incentives.

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