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Woodlots, wetlands or wheat fields? Agri-environmental land allocation preferences of stakeholder organisations in England and Ontario

Marr, Eric Joseph, Howley, Peter
Land use policy 2018 v.75 pp. 673-681
agri-environmental policy, agricultural land, arable soils, biodiversity, interviews, land use, landscapes, lighting, models, ownership, stakeholders, wetlands, wheat, woodlots, England, Ontario
Society’s increasing demands for a multitude of products and services are putting pressure on a finite land base, resulting in potential competition between agricultural and environmental interests. Stakeholder organisations wield considerable power in determining land allocation and the pursuit of different land-use objectives. Through the use of an inductive, qualitative methodology this study analyses the agri-environmental land-use preferences of organisational level actors operating in two comparable cases: England, UK and Ontario, Canada. The use of a comparative approach allowed for the illumination of differences and similarities within the preferences of stakeholders from like jurisdictions, which may not be evident from the analysis of a single case. In each case, semi-structured interviews, coupled with a photo-elicitation exercise, were used to explore preferences relating to agri-environmental integration (land-sharing) or separation (land-sparing). We found that the preferences of stakeholder organisations are more similar than might be expected with actors from both cases generally preferring a land-sharing approach in principle. However, a deeper look at stakeholder preferences provides a series of obstacles for achieving such a landscape model including differing views on: (1) the interpretation of integration and separation in practice, (2) conversion of land into agricultural production, (3) environmental restoration of arable land, (4) ownership of farmland, and (5) public access to nature on private farmland. The research uncovers what representatives from key organisational stakeholders see as their preferred solution for reconciling competing land-use objectives and thereby sheds light on the contextual suitability of land sparing/sharing expanding beyond production/biodiversity optimisation into social considerations.