People prefer to integrate ag and environmental land uses, study reveals
By Kaitlynn Anderson
Stakeholders in Ontario may have different preferences on formal agri-environmental land use policies in principle than in practice, a recent study revealed.
In the study, researchers at the University of York in the United Kingdom interviewed stakeholder organizations in Ontario and England to determine their perspectives on land allocation.
Participants in both locations opted to integrate agricultural and environmental land uses – known as land-sharing – rather than separate them, the study, which was published in the June 2018 edition of Land Use Policy, revealed.
Stakeholders “were generally in agreement that agriculture and the environment can – and should – be integrated both at the farm and landscape scales,” Eric Marr, a co-author of the study, told Farms.com.
However, these results slightly surprised the researchers, as Ontario participants preferred land-sparing policies, which involve the division of these two uses, in practice in a previous study.
These results may not represent “a shift in views, but rather a disconnect between the approach used in policy and the approach preferred by participants in my sample,” Marr said.
By integrating environmental and agricultural activities on their properties, farmers and land owners could see multiple benefits, the article stated.
For example, producers could reduce soil erosion in their fields and provide habitats for grassland birds.
While most participants strongly favoured land-sharing policies, some individuals in Ontario had alternative points of view.
These participants discussed possible drawbacks associated with integrated land uses, including risks of damage from pests and wildlife, and possible production or profit losses.
Instead, land-sparing policies could provide benefits to the public, such as “the opportunity for greater mechanisation and the potential for wider public access to natural areas,” these participants reported.
During the study, the researchers also asked stakeholders about their thoughts on people converting agricultural land for environmental purposes.
Most participants in both England and Ontario strongly felt that “only marginal land should be available for environmental restoration,” the article stated.
“Good farm land is needed to raise food. Reforestation of land suitable for farmland makes little sense unless it is done to create buffers,” one Canadian stakeholder said.
UPDATED MAY 23, 2018
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