In some landscapes, effective conservation of wildlife habitat requires extending beyond the boundaries of reserves and addressing stewardship of private lands. This approach could be especially valuable for the conservation of farm ponds, which are abundant and serve key agricultural functions on private lands. Though farm ponds also provide wildlife habitat, little is known about how they are managed or how values and beliefs of their owners relate to their quality. To address this knowledge gap, we collected data on pond habitat quality and management using historical aerial imagery and high-resolution Google Earth satellite imagery of the Grand River Grasslands of southern Iowa and Northern Missouri. We also collected spatially congruent social data using a mail back survey sent to 456 landowners in the region (32.7% response rate). We used mixed-effects linear regression to link indicators of habitat quality to the survey results. We found that many ponds were permanent, accessible to cattle, in early successional states, and had little wetland vegetation, indicating a scarcity of suitable habitat for wildlife. At the same time, 35–57% of survey respondents said they would be willing to change their management to benefit aquatic organisms. Our analyses indicated that higher cover of cattails correlated with ownership by respondents who regarded row crops or income from agriculture as less important and ponds tended to be temporary if owned by respondents who had many ponds. Moving forward, large landowners and those willing to manage their land to benefit wildlife may constitute a core set of future partners for conservation efforts focused on improving pond habitat in the region.
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