The scope of this paper is to clarify the concept of countryside stewardship. Attention is focused on Western Europe, where the concept has political, legal and economic connotations, and where ethical and cultural values are also important. The economic nature and value of stewardship are examined, and the policy instruments aimed at inducing countryside stewardship are probed. This paper refers to the benefits of stewardship, defined as the production of positive environmental effects or safeguards from negative effects. Agricultural practices which may cause negative externalities are not considered.