In response to substantial economic and social dislocations in the United States, many rangeland owners are changing land use and management practices. Changes in land use can significantly affect the services rangeland ecosystems provide. Decisions associated with such changes are likely mediated by landowner views regarding individual rights, social responsibilities, and the future security of property rights. In this paper, we examine the extent to which landowners are likely to adopt, without public compensation, socially desirable land management objectives that enhance ecosystem services from rangelands. The study consisted of a mail survey of landowners with at least 40 ha: 500 in Texas, 500 in Utah, and 694 in Colorado. Adjusted response rates were 62% in Texas, 46% in Utah, and 51% in Colorado. Regression analyses showed that willingness to adopt socially desirable rangeland management objectives was positively correlated with the social responsibility dimension of respondents' property rights orientations but negatively correlated with the rights erosion dimension. Our results also suggested that landowners in private land states, such as Texas, might be less willing than landowners in states with more public land to manage their land for the maintenance of ecosystem services without being compensated. Although the scope of our study was limited, the results suggest that agencies tasked with maintaining ecosystem services on private rangelands might more successfully achieve their mission by promoting social responsibility among landowners. Including community leaders with a highly developed sense of social responsibility in programs aimed at improving land stewardship and including peer-pressure incentives in such programs might enhance social responsibility perspectives among landowners. Such programs should also be adaptable at the state-level to account for differences in property-rights orientations relative to landowner dependence on private and public land.
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