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Best management practices and timber harvesting: the role of social networks in shaping landowner decisions

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The influence of social others in private landowner decision-making has received limited attention despite growing support for peer-to-peer learning and landowner cooperative behavior. We applied social network analysis (SNA), a relatively novel methodology in the context of private forestry, to evaluate the influence of landowners' social networks on their forestry management decisions and as related to current policy arrangements in Wisconsin, USA. We found that an increase in landowner ties to others, and specifically forestry professionals, was associated with greater application of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for water quality, but may also increase landowners' perceived difficulty with the timber harvest process. Landowner enrollment in a forestry incentive program were noted; program enrollees tended to have larger networks, slightly higher BMP application ratings, and rated their process and overall perceptions of the harvest lower than non-program enrollees. We discuss the important contribution of understanding social networks surrounding private forest management decisions as relevant to sustainable forestry goals. We also stress the need for further evaluation of the ways in which private forestry policy impacts the structure of landowners' networks, personal forestry decisions, and the social and ecological legacies of these policies.
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Keywords: Egocentric networks; forest policy; interpersonal communication; personal decision-making; private landowners; social network analysis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Natural Resource Ecology & Management, Iowa State University, Ames, IA, USA 2: Department of Forest & Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Publication date: 2011-04-01

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