Evaluating Determinants of Participation in Voluntary Riparian Buffer Programs: A Case Study of Maryland's Buffer Incentive Program
Hagan, Patrick Thomas
King, Dennis M.
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Forest or grass buffers planted along streams or other waterbodies are receiving considerable attention by policy makers as a way of providing a range of environmental benefits for society, especially prevention of non-point source water pollution from agricultural land. The current emphasis of riparian buffer discussions focuses on voluntary rather than regulatory initiatives, both nationally and in the Chesapeake Bay region. This is not a project about the behavior of buffers; rather, it is about the behavior of people. Why would a landowner plant a riparian buffer on his land if he bears many of the costs, while the benefits might occur largely downstream? This project compares the decision-making process of a sample of landowners who are participating in Maryland's voluntary Buffer Incentive Program and a sample of farmers who are not in the program. More than 600 telephone interviews were conducted to gather original data about the landowners' demographic characteristics, their awareness of the riparian buffer concept, and the weight they gave to various economic and attitudinal factors during their riparian buffer adoption decision-making process. Water quality or other environmental benefits to the community, creation of fish and wildlife habitat, control of erosion, and the grant from the Buffer Incentive Program were the most important factors in the adoption decision for Buffer Incentive Program participants interviewed. Non-participating farmers cited most often erosion control, water quality or other environmental benefit to the community, compliance with current or future land use regulations, and the grant payment from the Buffer Incentive Program.