With approximately 70% of the land in the United States in private ownership, voluntary conservation efforts are critical to sustain fish and wildlife, soil health and all natural resources. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (PFW) has been providing voluntary technical and financial assistance to private landowners for over 30 years and continues to be critically important to conservation of federal trust species and a catalyst for public-private conservation partnerships across the country.

The most common length of a PFW agreement is 10-years, a period where cooperating landowners agree to maintain the partnership project. Anecdotally, landowners, PFW biologists, and other conservation partners have observed that many projects are maintained as valuable additions to the landowner’s operation beyond the expiration of the ten-year period.

In 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Human Dimensions Branch, in cooperation with the PFW Program and Colorado State University, conducted a survey of landowners who had completed PFW projects in the northwest and southwest United States to better understand landowners’ perceptions of the PFW program, motivations for participating, and the persistence of projects beyond 10 years.

Forty percent of the 317 landowners surveyed responded to the survey, which supported many of the anecdotal observations about landowners’ continued commitment to projects, as well as other key points. Some of the highlights include the landowner satisfaction with the PFW Program (95% overall), with at least 85% satisfied with key aspects, such as cost-share arrangements, terms of agreement, and PFW staff. The survey found that the PFW Program has a ripple effect, with 48% of respondents working on at least one more project with the PFW Program and 67% working with another conservation organization as a result of their positive experience with the PFW program.

The project summary and report can be found here (https://doi.sciencebase.gov/hd/static-page/pfw-persistence). During the week of August 16th, Partnerscapes participated in two virtual presentations on the study that included a panel discussing the findings and what lies ahead for voluntary conservation partnerships.  A recording of the session should be available soon.