Be on time. That’s the one piece of excellent advice I learned while meeting with hundreds of landowners over the years. People who live and work on the land do spend full days attending to the needs of the ranch, farm or park, and they are doing us a favor by discussing conservation challenges and ideas on their land with a total stranger, and in my case, a not-to-be- (initially at least) trusted representative from the Fish and Wildlife Department.
Most wildlife and fish habitat and streams are not found on public land, but rather within private acreage. To be successful in promoting conservation measures on private lands, Stewards might consider the following effective talking points to achieve mutual goals.
1. What’s in it for them? People will participate in conservation programs when they perceive it to be in their best interest. Be prepared to describe how conservation is in the best interest of the landowner.
2. Listen, Listen, Listen: the needs of the landower must be established through intelligent and comprehensive questioning prior to making a pitch for your conservation program.
3. Solve a problem. When you talk, you want people to listen. Talk about their challenges, their needs, their concerns and then how conservation is the solution to their problems.
4. Let ’em win! Regard participation in a conservation program as enabling the landower to win by getting the benefits s/he is looking for. if the landowner wants to adopt a conservation practice because it will save her labor costs rather then because of its erosion-reducing potential then let it be.
5. Light a fire: Each rancher or farmer visit should not be an opportunity to fill a bucket, but rather to light a fire. The goal of the visit should be to prompt landowner interest in conservation, to get them to make the decision on their own.
One of my favorite stories about working with a private landowners occurred in central Oregon. A rancher asked a Steward why there no cinnamon teal ducks breeding in his pond? He said his wife loved to have ducks on their property. The Steward wondered whether cows had access to the pond, and the rancher said yes.
The next slide showed a brood of ducklings swimming on the pond. The simple act of just keeping cows out of the water during the short nesting season achieved the goal. ~