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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Wetland retention on the prairies through private landowner stewardship Hursin, Tamara Julie Irene


Loss and degradation of wetlands across Canada's prairie pothole region in Canada is severe and accelerating as on-going intensification and expansion of the agricultural land base continues to exert pressure on the remaining wetland resource. Traditionally wetlands have been regarded as unexploited wastelands to be converted to more productive agricultural uses. Although wetlands are now recognized as providing vital functions of a hydrological, ecological and social nature which have economic and social value as well as intrinsic value, difficulties in quantifying these benefits, coupled with readily calculated and realized benefits from agricultural production, result in continuing wetland losses. As well, because wetland benefits accrue to the general public rather than the private land holders who dominate the pothole region, individual owners cannot capture payment for these benefits and thus favor agricultural production over wetland retention. The primary objective of the thesis is to evaluate nonregulatory approaches to encouraging private landowner stewardship on the prairies with respect to wetland retention. From the literature, it is established that a nonregulatory approach to preserving wetlands on private lands is preferable to police power regulation from both a landowner and general public perspective. Several benefits associated with using nonregulatory tools to promote changes in landowner behavior are identified and developed into an analytical framework. Using this framework, six market and moral suasion nonregulatory tools commonly used to encourage landowners to retain wetlands are assessed for their apparent advantages and disadvantages in supporting the primary concerns of landowners faced with a decision whether to enter into a stewardship program. From this assessment, conclusions regarding probable owner acceptability of the mechanisms are drawn, acceptability being a measure for how successful the nonregulatory tools will be in promoting private stewardship of wetlands. The expected landowner appeal of the mechanisms is tested by evaluating their actual owner appeal as implemented in three on-going Canadian stewardship programs. Actual appeal is found to be fairly consistent with results from the literature analysis and conclusions from these results indicate that the mechanisms do vary in their effectiveness to encourage landowners to retain wetlands and thus vary in their ability to secure wetland acreage for protection. Data limitations are encountered in the case studies due to the infancy of stewardship programs in Canada and thus it is concluded that it will take time to demonstrate the effectiveness of nonregulatory mechanisms in promoting private landowner stewardship of wetlands. The evaluation of nonregulatory tools allows a number of recommendations to be drawn with regard to improving stewardship programs in order to effectively encourage landowner participation, the type of data base that needs to be established in order to effectively monitor the success of nonregulatory mechanisms, and opportunities for further investigation in this area of study.

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