Classifying land-ownership motivations in central, Texas, USA: A first step in understanding drivers of large-scale land cover change
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Land-ownership patterns in rural areas are undergoing changes. To explore the critical question of how changing land ownership in a watershed potentially drives land use, we examined differences in individual landowners' reasons for owning drylands. We conducted a mail survey of 767 landowners in three counties of central Texas, USA. Using exploratory factor analysis we reduced motivations into six dimensions: agricultural production, profit-orientation, rural lifestyle, financial investment, mineral extraction, and wildlife enterprise. A cluster analysis of these dimensions classified landowners into three groups: agricultural production, multiple-objective, and lifestyle-oriented. We validated these classifications using variables related to land management, land characteristics, ranching and farming perceptions, and demographics. The landowner groups performed well in discriminating between socio-demographic variables. Although landowners in central Texas are still largely involved in agricultural production (61%), only 24% focus on it exclusively. More than one third (39%) own land exclusively for lifestyle reasons. Changing motivations for owning land may be indicative of a cultural shift that can lead to landscape-scale changes in land cover. Policy tools and education efforts that recognize this heterogeneity in landowners will enhance the resiliency and sustainability of rural communities and of the dryland ecosystems on which they depend. 2012 Elsevier Ltd.