Reconsidering 'Crowding Out' of Intrinsic Motivation from Conservation Incentives

Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation, 2008

20 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2009


A stumbling block to the widespread use of financial incentives for conservation on private lands is the concern that compensation will undermine motivation to act voluntarily and compromise environmental values. This paper argues that this concern has been overstated. First, a substantial number of landowners lack ex ante motivation to engage voluntarily in conservation activities. These landowners are not at risk of decreased motivation or pro-environmental attitudes. Second, conservation activities that carry high behavioral costs are unlikely - with or without incentives - to produce voluntary action. Third, traditional regulatory approaches are often difficult to implement on private lands and regulation may have the same, if not more severe, effects on motivation and attitudes. Last, in those cases where landowners are at risk for impaired motivation, incentive programs can mitigate or even eliminate undermining effects by providing compensation that is proportional to effort and performance and by structuring program administration to emphasize positive feedback and cooperation. This analysis suggests an expanded role for conservation incentive programs on private lands as well as a framework for evaluating the motivational effect of incentives in other environmental contexts.

Keywords: psychology, environment, conservation, motivation

Suggested Citation

Stern, Stephanie M., Reconsidering 'Crowding Out' of Intrinsic Motivation from Conservation Incentives. Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation, 2008 . Available at SSRN:

Stephanie M. Stern (Contact Author)

Chicago-Kent College of Law ( email )

565 W. Adams St.
Chicago, IL 60661-3691
United States
312-906-5285 (Phone)

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