Fostering the Provisioning of Ecosystem Services by Private Landowners

The past decade has witnessed a burgeoning interest within scholarly and applied circles in the re-casting of environmental amenities as commodities for trade, marketable in much the same way as a loaf of bread or a quart of strawberries. With the ostensibly growing foothold of the ‘ecosystem services’ (ES) paradigm, the public good nature of environmental stewardship has been thrust into the limelight. The newly-emergent perspective holds thus: given that individual landowners are expected to bear the responsibility of meeting heightened standards of environmental protection through additional expenditures or foregone development opportunities, and yet society at large reaps the benefits, they should be remunerated by society.
This thesis explores the governance arrangements that would serve to foster the provisioning of ES by private landowners. A heuristic framework is first developed, offering a means of systematically contemplating critical issues influencing the viability and performance of ES governance alternatives. Set in eastern Ontario, the empirical portion of the research assesses the interests of landowners, and program and policy professionals, for different ES governance mechanisms. In brief, interests were varied, with an openness to a range of arrangements. Notably, preferences tended toward arrangements exhibiting cooperative and collaborative leanings, and away from those with competitive underpinnings. These understandings inform the elaboration of a set of high-order design features envisioned as preconditions in a governance ‘architecture’ supportive of the provisioning of ES. The findings suggest that a more open embrace of hybridity in institutional arrangements may offer a way forward as ES governance alternatives continue to be conceived. They also point to the need for a re-imagining and re-constituting of relationships such that they truly embrace the principles of mutual regard, reciprocity, and trust; such ‘relations of regard’ may serve to realize a renewed social contract between those working the land, and those looking on from beyond the farm (or woodlot) gate. Consistent with this suggestion, the findings underscore the need for a greater sensibility to the diverse motivations that inspire the provisioning of ES. In contemplating prospects for reflexive governance approaches to enhance the provisioning of ES, the findings suggest reason for cautious optimism.

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About Eric Miller

I am an Ecological Economist, currently working as a consulting economist and university lecturer. Most of my career has been in the Ontario and federal public service. About half of my work these days relates to ecosystem services: communicating the concept, assessing available information, and proposing ways to integrate the concept and measurement into policies and programs. I earned an MES in Ecological Macroeconomics from York University, a BA in Economics from McMaster University and a BSc in Biology from Carleton University.

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