Ashley Vizek is a M.S. student in Dr. Max Nielsen-Pincus’ lab in the Department of Environmental Science and Management at Portland State University. Her Master’s thesis research focuses on landowners’ perceptions of conservation easements (CEs) to better understand how CEs can be further utilized in private land conservation. More specifically, the objectives of her research project are to:
• Determine private landowners’ familiarity with and attitudes towards CEs;
• Understand the advantages and risk that landowners perceive to be associated with CEs;
• Evaluate the role of community and social connections in developing an awareness of and interest in CEs;
• Identify private landowners’ likelihood of placing a CE on their property.
In order to address these research questions she implemented a mixed-mode survey in the Whychus Creek Watershed (Deschutes County, OR) during the summer of 2015. Whychus Creek is a valued ecological, scenic and cultural resource and has been the target of conservation and restoration efforts for 30 years. Private land conservation is especially important along lower Whychus Creek as it is predominantly privately owned and vulnerable to increases in development. Deschutes Land Trust has conserved a substantial amount of land along the creek through fee-simple and conservation easement acquisition, speaking to the commitment of the community to the natural environment.
As of November 1, 2015, 257 survey responses were received, yielding a response rate of 41.5%. Survey respondents were older than 50 years of age and, in comparison to the general population, had a higher level of education and above-average income. Most survey respondents specified that they use their property as a primary residence and live on their property more than nine months out the year. There was a wide range of property sizes ranging from less than one acre to greater than 2,000 acres.
Prior to her studies at Portland State, Ashley worked for the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, a private grant-making foundation based in Chicago, IL. Motivated by the numerous accounts of communities coming together to protect land she decided to explore the social dynamics of private land conservation in greater depth. For more information on the survey, please contact Ashley here.