A CEED-funded study of how private land conservation organisations frame the benefits of participation has found a bias for emphasising the environmental benefits, while under-emphasising the benefits to landholders and the wider social benefits.
Lead author Alex Kusmanoff of RMIT said that because many endangered species are found on private land, this is an important part of biodiversity conservation.
"The success of these conservation efforts is tied to the engagement of landholders, however only a small proportion of landholders participate in conservation" he said.
"In order to engage a broader range of landholders, we were interested to understand how current messages are being pitched.
"We know that different people are influenced by different considerations when making decisions.
"Some tend to weigh pros and cons as they relate to themselves personally, others weigh them as they relate to society as a whole, and with pro-environmental behaviour some people are concerned with achieving the best outcome for the environment as a whole."
The study analysed the websites of 20 most notable Australian private land conservation schemes and categorised how the benefits of participation were framed; whether framed as benefits to landholders, to society or to the environment.
"To be as relevant and engaging to as broad a range of landholders as possible, all three kinds of benefits should be well represented," he said.
"Yet, we found a predominance of environmentally-framed benefits.
"The lack of emphasis on social benefits in particular is a missed opportunity to engage community minded landholders who don't necessarily identify with the conservation movement."
The authors argue that a more strategic approach to framing conservation messages is needed.
"By appealing to those people who are already receptive to conservation messages, we are only ever going to recruit from the same potential pool of landholders. But we can increase that pool beyond the conservation-minded, by emphasising both the social and personal benefits of conservation."
"We must think strategically about who we are trying to reach, what motivates them, and how to frame our messages to better engage them."
'Framing the private land conservation conversation: Strategic framing of the benefits of conservation participation could increase landholder engagement' is published in the Journal Environmental Science & Policy. DOI:
Photo courtesy of Green Australia