Encouraging Conservation on Private Lands: A Behavioral Analysis of Financial Incentives

This Article analyzes the design of conservation incentives in light of behavioral psychology research and suggests ways to improve their efficacy. Psychological research offers insight into designing incentives, specifically direct payment programs and perpetual conservation easements, to maximize their impact and reduce enforcement costs. First, the research indicates that durable change in stewardship behavior typically requires ongoing, intermittent reinforcement through staggered or outcomes-based payments. Second, psychological literature on the “crowding out” of voluntary motivation highlights the importance of program administration and incentive size. Last, the Article considers ways to restyle administration to increase participation and market incentives more effectively.