" We define our landscapes as much as they define us "

Wildlife and Fisheries Economic Enterprises

Evaluation of Cost-Share Assistance Programs

Researchers are conducting a survey to evaluate landowner participation in and satisfaction with cost-share assistance programs in Mississippi. The project consists of a mail-out survey sent to nonindustrial private landowners and an e-mail survey sent to Natural Resource Conservation Service district conservation officers. The goal of the project is to determine participation rates, reasons for participation, and landowner satisfaction levels with various aspects of the programs. This project focused on the Conservation Reserve Program, Wetland Reserve Program, and Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program offered through the USDA 2002 Farm Bill. Though the survey of natural resource professionals is still underway, results are in from the landowner surveys. In general, when landowner expectations are compared with satisfaction levels, expectations were exceeded in every aspect of involvement. Landowners ranked a desire to do their part in good stewardship as the number one reason to participate in cost-share programs, with a desire to increase wildlife on their property a close second. Over half of participants surveyed said that the enrollment process was not difficult at all, and about 30 percent rated it as slightly difficult. In addition, over 50 percent of landowners were "extremely satisfied" with the results of their enrollment practices. The project’s overall aim is to find ways to increase participation and satisfaction in cost-share programs. The information from this project will allow NRCS, Farm Service Agency, Extension, and state agency personnel to focus attention on meeting existing needs. In addition, this type of study will assist legislatures and policy makers make informed funding decisions.