How Do Conservation Land Trusts Come to Embrace Agriculture? A Case Study from Oregon
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In part because of the state’s unique land use system, Oregon’s land trusts have largely focused their efforts on the protection of lands with wildlife habitat values, rather than productive agricultural land. And yet a confluence of contemporary trends – including population growth, aging farmer-landowners, and a growing regard for the conservation values embedded in well-stewarded farmland – are causing some land trusts to re-evaluate their conservation priorities. By conducting in-depth interviews with land trust staff and board members, farmers and ranchers, and land use advocates around the state, my work seeks to make transparent the network of influences underlying this shift. Making use of nonprofit management theory, I argue that land trusts change their conservation priorities through a combination of environmental assessment and managerial vision. Several predictors – willingness to innovate, agricultural representation within the organization, and community priorities – increase the likelihood that land trusts will include farmland as a conservation priority.