Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design


Wood Science and Technology

Committee Chair

Kathryn G. Arano.


Private forestland is an important resource to West Virginia. Timber production is vital to the state's economy and forestland is important for wildlife habitat, recreation and healthy watersheds. Non-Industrial Private Forest (NIPF) landowners control the majority of this commodity within the state and throughout the country. Development, fragmentation and parcelization are growing threats to landscape integrity and forest composition. Conservation easements are defined as contracts between private sector landowners and accredited institutions that preserve the conservation value of the land. They have become a popular land management tool in recent years. Conservation easements have also been widely accepted and utilized in the United States as well as around the world. Yet, conservation easement programs targeting West Virginia woodlands do not appear to be prospering. Therefore, an assessment of NIPF enrollment in conservation easement programs is a relevant endeavor. Surveys were developed to investigate what influences landowner decisions with regard to participation and were sent to both NIPF non-participants throughout West Virginia and to agencies and organizations interested in disbursing questionnaires to their conservation easement participants. Mail Survey data was collected in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011. The primary goal of this study is to provide helpful information and possible recommendations that may improve participation in conservation easement programs and inform landowners.;The first examination is a forensic policy analysis of the Uniform Conservation Easement Act (UCEA) of 1981, which is the basis for the West Virginia Conservation and Preservation Act. This is an attempt to identify the fundamental causes that resulted in the legislative action. Secondary data from academic journals, books and professional sources were utilized to determine the root causes for the UCEA. The policy was then compared to three other alternatives (no policy change, privatizing and education) by three principles: (1) effectiveness; (2) administrative feasibility; and (3) ethics. Results showed the UCEA to be the most efficient policy instrument for protecting private land against development.;The second analysis examined NIPF landowners not participating in conservation easement programs. Summary statistics were utilized to compare the differences between NIPF landowners willing to consider enrolling their forest property in a forest easement program and those unwilling. Logistic regression was then employed to determine the factors influencing landowners' decision to participate in easement programs. The model showed several significant predictors from each category (property information, motivations and perceptions and demographics). Results indicate there are many factors affecting NIPF land management decisions (e.g., landowner concern with transferring property rights to future generations and/or their ability to pay the current property taxes, individual perception of government and non-governmental organizational trustworthiness and woodland location). Recommendations include implementation of a regional marketing strategy, targeting specific landowners (e.g., larger amounts of acreage, majority forest cover and located in developmentally sensitive areas) and clear presentation of financial benefits to possible participants.;The third analysis evaluated conservation easement participants in West Virginia. Descriptive statistics were examined to gain insight into the attributes of landowners enrolled in easement programs. Results showed the most common primary use of eased land in the state to be farmland. While the primary motivation for easing the property was to prevent development. Most of the conservation easements were located in the developmentally sensitive eastern panhandle of West Virginia.