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Attitudes, Knowledge, and Perception of Fuel Reduction among Involved Publics in the Southern Appalachians: Implications for Responsive Communication

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Abstract:

An understanding of how identifiable groups perceive fuel reduction will help forest managers develop formal and informal communication strategies responsive to each group's concerns. This study identified three opinion segments on the basis of their attitudinal and behavioral characteristics about fuel reduction in the southern Appalachians and further described them on the basis of general forest use attitudes and behaviors (n = 640). A Let Nature Take Its Course segment was preservation oriented and supported fuel reduction only to the extent that it was thought to enhance biological diversity. More trusting of federal land managers, they should be approached through natural history and hiking clubs with messages emphasizing effects on nongame species. A Management for Human Benefits group was most supportive of fuel reduction and was concerned about availability of game and nongame species. More trusting of state land managers and strongly supportive of fuel reduction, they should be approached with messages about human benefits of fuel reduction. A Visually Appealing segment tended to evaluate fuel reduction mostly on the basis of aesthetic impacts. This amorphous group is more likely to object to fuel reduction on the basis of aesthetic issues, such as charring, downed timber, and loss of rhododendron and mountain laurel. Each group should be approached through a different channel, by forest managers from agencies it most prefers, with message content emphasizing perspectives on forest management already salient to the group.

Keywords: attitudes; communication strategies; knowledge; mechanical fuel reduction; prescribed fire; southern Appalachian Mountains

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.5849/sjaf.08-029

Publication date: 2012-08-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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