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Using incentives to promote stewardship on private forest land in BC Schwichtenberg, Detmar

Abstract

The government of British Columbia plans to regulate forest practices on private land in the province, largely in response to public pressure. The stated goals are to ensure a long term and stable timber supply and to protect environmental values. To achieve these goals, the BC government must choose among regulatory options ranging from a highly coercive and punishment-oriented approach such as the Forest Practices Code at one extreme, to an encouragement and reward-based approach at the other. The ideal choice is one that achieves the desired goals at the lowest cost to both the public and landowners. My hypothesis is that a shift away from traditional punishment-based command-cmd-control approaches and toward education-and-incentives would greatly promote regulatory efficiency. To test the hypothesis, three areas of research are considered. First, Organizational Behaviour research is examined to better understand the relative efficacy of punishment and reward in motivating people, and to assist in designing a reward-based motivation system. Second, a survey of BC private forest landowners helps determine how they might best be motivated to achieve public objectives. Third, other forest jurisdictions are examined to gain practical knowledge on the relative effectiveness and cost of different regulatory options. The survey indicates most forest landowners recognize a legitimate public interest in forest management on private land, but also that landowners place a high value on their independence and freedom to manage their forests. Landowners therefore favour a regulatory system based on education and financial incentives. Landowner preferences are supported by Organizational Behaviour research and experience in other jurisdictions. Studies indicate education greatly enhances the willingness and ability of landowners to meet public objectives, and that regulatory systems based on incentives are less expensive to administer, less intrusive on private property rights, and more likely to promote innovation. Research also shows government predilection for coercive regulatory measures is mainly the result of perceived political advantages. Finally, the paper outlines a regulatory system based on education, freedom to manage forest resources and financial incentives that can be used to achieve public objectives on private forest land in BC.

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