Farmers and the custody of the countryside: Trends in loss and conservation of non-productive habitats 1981-1998
MacDonald DW., Johnson PJ.
Using questionnaires circulated in 1981 and 1998, we assess the extent to which wildlife habitats were lost from English farms during the 1970s and 1990s, and attempt to identify the forces which motivated farmers to act as they did. We investigate how farmers' professed interest in wildlife and involvement with different leisure activities, particularly field sports, was related to their actions, and how these patterns had changed between the two surveys. These patterns are of some interest in assessing how the availability of subsidies, and changes in the legal framework surrounding farmland management, may affect the behaviour of farmers. There were large regional differences between farmers in their reported strategies with respect to unproductive land in both surveys, which could be at least partially related to regional variation in cultivation types. While economic reasons were predominant in motivating farmers to remove hedgerows and other habitats in the 1970s, a large proportion of farmers then also professed positive attitudes to wildlife and stated that they would be willing to co-operate with schemes for habitat restoration if subsidies were available. In the 1990s subsidies have become available, and many of the 1990s respondents had made use of the various schemes recently in place to encourage habitat restoration and preservation. There was some evidence that fieldsport involvement was influential; hunting farmers reported least hedgerow destruction in both decades and shooting farmers reported creating more new woodland in the 1990s than did other farmers. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.