Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation

Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Natural Resource Conflict Resolution

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation


Incentive-based Conservation, Sage-grouse, Rancher Decision-Making, Wildlife Conservation on Private Land


University of Montana


Conservationists are increasingly recognizing the importance of private land for the conservation of imperiled wildlife species while at the same time acknowledging the controversies with seeking Endangered Species Act protections. Recent and ongoing government-led efforts to conserve the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) through the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI) provide an illustrative experiment in applying incentive-based conservation to private lands. However, whether the SGI program works because it provides an alternative to listing has not been empirically researched. In this study I apply a qualitative, exploratory approach to examine SGI participation among ranchers in Washington, a state with high percentage of core sage-grouse habitat existing on private ranches and concerted efforts of SGI to promote grazing planning as a means to protect sage-grouse. Through interviews and analysis of both participating and nonparticipating ranchers, I found the most important factors in determining ranchers’ decision processes are their different regulatory risk perceptions, knowledge claims, stewardship values, and anticipated costs/benefits. Analysis of the interactions among these factors revealed five decision patterns among the ranchers in my sample. These include two patterns revealing why ranchers participate in SGI and three which explain nonparticipation. I refer to the first two as: (1) risk mitigators who participate in SGI to mitigate the threat of possible regulations to protect sage-grouse in addition to other anticipated benefits such as infrastructure improvements; and (2) capacity builders who participate in SGI because it further enables them to improve their stewardship goals. The three that pertain to nonparticipation are: (3) capacity maintainers who do not see SGI as providing any additional management benefit; (4) skeptical pragmatists who doubt the utility of the practices or protections prescribed by SGI; and (5) sovereign stewards who desire to be autonomous and self-reliant. Significantly, three of the five decision patterns are not incentivized by the presumed importance of reducing regulatory risk, and ranchers’ stewardship values deterred participation in SGI as much as they enabled it. Based on my findings, I suggest implications where further investigation is needed to fully understand the complex political, cultural, and economic dynamics that shape land managers’ support of incentive-based conservation efforts.



© Copyright 2017 Clancy Jandreau