Countryside Preferences: Exploring individuals’ WTP for the protection of traditional rural landscapes
The rural landscape can be thought of as a non-market commodity associated with the multifunctional aspect of agriculture and the need for its conservation is gaining more prominence in EU policy. This paper explored the Irish general public’s willingness to pay (WTP) for agricultural activities aimed at protecting the rural landscape. Using factor analysis, variables representing individuals’ opinions on the importance of a variety of landscape features were derived. Features associated with the wider biological and cultural diversity of the countryside such as woodland, bogland, wild flora and fauna, water quality and features associated with our cultural heritage play a more significant role in influencing WTP than more traditional and obvious scenic features of farming activities such as open grass covered fields, grazing farm animals and well maintained farm buildings. In relation to personal characteristics, income, education, the presence of children within the family structure and whether respondents had siblings involved in farming were also all found to significantly affect WTP. Using a generalized Tobit Interval model, the average WTP for the conservation of the traditional rural landscape was estimated at €44 per person per year. The results would indicate a strong justification for increasing the support for second pillar objectives under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) such as the protection of the rural landscape.
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