The Elephant in the Room: Absentee Landowners and Conservation Management

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Land Use Policy

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In this article, we provide a synthesis of the peer-reviewed literature and state and federal policies focused on absentee landowners of forestland, rangeland, or farmland in the U.S. The synthesis indicates absentee owners, as compared to those living on the land, appear to be much more likely to live in urban areas, are less dependent financially upon the land and much more likely to own land for amenity reasons than production purposes. Absentee owners are also less likely to be engaged in active management practices, decision making regarding these practices, and less likely to have contact with extension and local natural resource agency program staff. In addition, little formal policy was identified as having any direct or explicit emphasis on absentee landownership issues involving private forest, range, or farmland.

Based on our review we conclude there is a need for: (1) Improved research to understand conservation management and absentee landownership, (2) Improved research and policy that considers the role of the tenant operator in farmland conservation, (3) Improved research and policy that considers the role of the ranch manager in conservation, (4) Creating, implementing and evaluating outreach models and (5) Coordinated efforts on research and outreach.

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