Market-based instruments (MBIs) are rapidly becoming a dominant characteristic of the policy landscape for private land conservation in Australia and elsewhere. Price-based MBIs are considered attractive to landholders, who are provided with financial payments for the delivery of defined ecological outcomes on their land, and for policy-making, where ecological return on investment can be measured quantitatively. Consequently, MBIs are commonly used to promote competitive, individualized approaches to improve ecological values, framed around the property-scale. We are concerned that there is a tension between the property-centric focus of price-based MBI programs and the need for environmental management policy and practice to reflect landscape-scale social-ecological processes. Targeting MBI programs at individual properties could risk generating insufficient public good conservation benefits, if those programs fail to reflect the relationship between landscape-scale processes and property-scale conservation efforts. To remedy the neglect of the landscape scale in private land conservation MBI policy, we develop a definition of stewardship that directly connects landscape-scale ecological function to the ‘public good’ dimension of stewardship. We apply this over-arching definition to demonstrate howMBI programs can deliver on the goal of landscape-scale conservation, and to suggest when MBIs might not be well suited to achieving private land conservation objectives.