Learning From Our Landowners
Like many Midwestern states, Missouri has seen a shift in land ownership in recent years. Landowners are giving more consideration to devoting land to recreational uses such as hunting, fishing and the overall enjoyment of natural communities. They are also beginning to manage their land with these objectives in mind. However, agriculture and the production of food and fiber remain priorities for most landowners. According to the 2002 Census of Agriculture by the United States Department of Agriculture, 43 percent of the land in Missouri is considered cropland, with another 11 percent each devoted to both pasture and woods.
Landowners contact the Department of Conservation daily to inquire about technical or financial assistance, equipment availability, or to stay in touch with their local conservation agents. Providing beneficial stewardship advice to these individuals engaged in improving and managing fish, forest, and wildlife resources in the state has been a Department priority for years. To that end, the Department’s Private Land Services Division developed a survey to gain a better understanding of our performance when working with landowners.
In addition to assessing landowner satisfaction with our services, the survey sought to learn more about the needs of landowners contacting us for assistance. How much land do they own? What types of assistance are they interested in receiving? What management practices are important to them?
Private landowners who contacted the Department for assistance from the years 2000 through 2004 were selected to receive the survey, which was based on previous on-site visits, the development of management plans for fish, forest, or wildlife resources, and experiences with financial assistance.
In April 2005, a Landowner Assistance Program Survey asking 18 questions was mailed to 6,563 Missourians. Fortunately for many species of wildlife, Missouri landowners have a long-held tradition of being concerned with soil, water and wildlife resources and provided an outstanding response. A total of 4,266 surveys, or 65 percent, were returned. Many survey experts consider this to be an exceptional response rate.
So who responded to the survey?
The average age of the individuals who responded to the survey was 57.6 years old, with 86 percent reporting that they earned less than 10 percent of their income from farming. Many landowners likely purchased a tract of land with hunting or outdoor recreation as their primary purpose.
From a survey perspective, this is an important question because it helps determine what influences a landowner’s decision to manage the property. In many cases, with