The effectiveness of policy instruments for wildlife conservation on farmland
Agri-environmental policy is designed to modify the productive behaviour of farmers to discourage damaging practices or encourage the delivery of environmental benefits. The growth in this policy area since the mid-1980s means that policy makers are now able to select from a wide range of mechanisms. In practice, decisions concerning the selection of these mechanisms are based on prospective analyses of their effectiveness in meeting conservation and cost objectives and their ability to fit with the political and institutional environment in which they are to be implemented. In this study a prospective evaluation of the effectiveness of a number of agri-environmental policy instruments in encouraging wildlife conservation on farmland in the Cairngorms area of Scotland is carried out. The exchequer cost and conservation effectiveness of a range of instruments was judged through simulations of farmers' likely responses to them. Simulations were based on the results of a survey of farmers to determine their attitudes towards different instruments and their private costs of conservation. In exchequer cost and conservation effectiveness terms the most effective policy instruments are those that adopt a regulatory approach. Operational instruments, however, tend to be voluntary, operating through economic incentives and management agreements. This failure of studies to acknowledge the importance of political and institutional circumstances in instrument evaluation might be referred to as the evaluation deficit. This study attempts to fill this by developing a framework, using public choice theory, within which the political effectiveness of policy instruments can be evaluated. This is done through a survey of Cairngorms' policy actors. The study shows the results of prospective and retrospective evaluations of the effectiveness of operational instruments to differ. This implementation deficit is due to the failure of many evaluations to take full account of the external circumstances for policy implementation. Ways in which these might be accounted for are suggested.