Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department / School

Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Larry M. Gigliotti


agriculture, Farm Bill Conservation Programs, grassland conservation, land use, private landowners, values


The Plains and Prairie Potholes Ecoregion (PPPE), is located in the north-central contiguous United States and is one of the most imperiled grassland regions in the world. Most of the region is privately owned and used for the production of agricultural commodities. In addition to its direct benefits to humanity, the PPPE provides multiple ecosystem services including, soil and water quality improvements, carbon sequestration, weather amelioration, and wildlife habitat. Recent increases in expansion of row crop agriculture concerns conservation practitioners about the long-term integrity of the PPPE. Conservation practitioners are looking to improve their private landowner conservation initiatives in the region. I collaborated with the state agencies of Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota to survey private landowners about their demographics, attitudes, motivations, values, and behaviors related to land use (cover letters and questionnaires are provided in the Appendix). This dissertation aims to provide an understanding of private landowners’ land use decisions. First, I provide background information on the ecology, land ownership, economy, land use, and status of conservation efforts in the region. I also review literature about agriculture producers’ attitudes, values, and practices related to conservation, and scales developed to measure environmental cognitive factors and I state my dissertation objectives (Chapter 1). Second, I describe the process used to develop the Land Use Value (LUV) scale, a measurement instrument to understand the values farmers and ranchers have for their land, with respect to conservation (Chapter 2). Reliability and validity testing of the LUV scale indicated it successfully predicted attitudes, motivations, and behaviors related to conservation. Third, I used the LUV scale to identify landowners’ LUV types and evaluate choices of production practices and conservation behaviors, to improve the effectiveness of conservation initiatives (Chapter 3). The results showed each LUV type had distinguishing characteristics that can be used to evaluate and align grassland conservation practices, policy, and messaging. Fourth, I investigated the role of Farm Bill Conservation Programs in conserving grassland habitat in the PPPE (Chapter 4). I found unifying characteristics among participants and nonparticipants of Farm Bill Conservation Programs that can be used to direct recruitment efforts, but found a negative relationship between participants and having land in grass that needs to be further investigated. Fifth, I conclude with a review of the challenges facing the PPPE ecosystems and private landowners, knowledge gained from this research, and encourage conservation professionals and decision makers to use the information presented here to find new ways to conserve the ecosystems they cherish (Chapter 5). Overall, this study provides conservation practitioners with useful information about farmers and ranchers in the PPPE that can be used to improve conservation efforts.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Habitat conservation -- Prairie Pothole Region.
Landowners -- Prairie Pothole Region -- Attitudes.
Land use -- Prairie Pothole Region.
Grassland ecology -- Prairie Pothole Region.


Includes bibliographical references (pages 59-62).



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University



Rights Statement

In Copyright