Opportunities and obstacles for rangeland conservation in San Diego County, California, USA
Kathleen A Farley, Department of Geography, San Diego State University
Kyle C Walsh, Department of Geography, San Diego State University
Arielle S Levine, Department of Geography, San Diego State University
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Working landscapes such as rangelands are increasingly recognized as having high conservation value, providing a variety of ecosystem services, including food, fiber, habitat, recreation, open space, carbon storage, and water, in addition to a broad range of social benefits. However, conversion of rangelands to other land uses has been prevalent throughout the western United States, leading to greater attention in the conservation community to the importance of collaborating with private landowners. The level of interest in collaborative conservation among private landowners and the types of conservation programs they choose to participate in depend on the social, economic, and environmental context. We used GIS analysis and interviews with ranchers to evaluate rangeland conversion and participation in conservation programs among ranchers in San Diego County, California, USA, which is part of a biodiversity hotspot with high plant species richness and a large number of endemic and rare species. We found that 21,210 ha (3.1%) of rangelands were converted to other uses over the past 25 years, primarily for urbanization, while the area of public rangeland increased by 9%. Interviews revealed that ranchers in San Diego County have had limited involvement with most conservation programs, and a critical factor for nonparticipation was providing programs access to private land, along with other issues related to trust and social values. Among ranchers who had participated in conservation programs, the payment level and the agency or organization administering the program were key factors. Our results provide insight into factors influencing whether and when ranchers are likely to participate in conservation initiatives and illustrate that private and public land conservation are strongly linked and would be more effective if the two strategies were better integrated.
conservation; ecosystem services; private land conservation; rangeland; working landscapes
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