Wildlife Conservation and Private Protected Areas: The Discrepancy Between Land Trust Mission Statements and Their Perceptions
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In 2010, land trusts in the U.S. had protected nearly 50 million acres of land, with much of it providing habitat for wildlife. However, the extent to which land trusts explicitly focus on wildlife conservation remains largely unknown. We used content analysis to assess land trust involvement in wildlife and habitat conservation, as reflected in their mission statements, and compared these findings with an organizational survey of land trusts. In our sample of 1358 mission statements, we found that only 17 % of land trusts mentioned “wildlife,” “animal,” or types of wildlife, and 35 % mentioned “habitat” or types. Mission statements contrasted sharply with results from a land trust survey, in which land trusts cited wildlife habitat as the most common and significant outcome of their protection efforts. Moreover, 77 % of land trusts reported that at least half of their acreage protected wildlife habitat, though these benefits are likely assumed. Importantly, mission statement content was not associated with the percentage of land reported to benefit wildlife. These inconsistencies suggest that benefits to wildlife habitat of protected land are recognized but may not be purposeful and strategic and, thus, potentially less useful in contributing toward regional wildlife conservation goals. We outline the implications of this disconnect, notably the potential omission of wildlife habitat in prioritization schema for land acquisition and potential missed opportunities to build community support for land trusts among wildlife enthusiasts and to develop partnerships with wildlife conservation organizations.
KeywordsHabitat protection Mission statements Land conservation Organizational survey Content analysis Wildlife
We would like to express our appreciation for funding support from the Sarah K. deCoizart Foundation and Wings Over Western Waters Initiative (with Intermountain West Joint Venture and Pacific Coast Joint Venture). We also thank our Advisory Team for their support on this project, including Marie McCarty (Kachemak Heritage Land Trust) and Andrew Mackie (Land Trust of the Upper Arkansas) from the Wings Over Western Waters Initiative, Erin Heskett (Land Trust Alliance), Ole Amundsen (The Conservation Fund), and Andrew Zepp (Finger Lakes Land Trust). Additionally, we appreciate the contributions of our colleagues, Ron Rohrbaugh and Sara Barker, to our Land Trust Initiative.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
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