Loch Lomond and Stewartry Environmentally Sensitive Areas : a study of public perceptions of policy benefits
Environmentally Sensitive Areas constitute the principal policy instrument for rewarding farmers as providers of environmental goods and services in the EU. This study examines two Scottish ESAs and considers whether the environmental benefits resulting exceed the costs and whether money is being targeted in a way which maximises the benefits. The study examines two main aspects of the public's perceptions of the benefits of the ESA policy: • the public's preferences for different landscape and conservation features within the ESA, and • the public's monetary valuation of the benefits of the scheme (using the Contingent Valuation Method). The individual features which are eligible for grant support under the ESA scheme are generally in accord with public preferences. It is clear from this study that, in principle, a high level of support for the ESA scheme exists amongst members of the public in the Loch Lomond and Stewartry areas. However, in practice, the way that the scheme has operated in the past has focused on an unduly narrow range of environmental services. Furthermore, those features commanding the greatest input of expenditure generate low levels of benefit to the public. If the primary aim were to maximise the monetary value of environmental gains resulting from a given level of expenditure, then an adjustment in the allocation of funding between different policy elements would seem to offer considerable potential for increasing the resulting consumer benefits. Furthermore, the current levels of expenditure on the policy are well below the mean willingness to pay for the policy stated by residents and visitors in the study sites.