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Nonindustrial Private Forest Landowner Beliefs Toward Climate Change and Carbon Sequestration in the Southern United States

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Carbon storage utilizing forests is one of the most important strategies for implementing climate change mitigation. Considering the potential of carbon storage in forests owned by nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) landowners, it is imperative to understand their views regarding climate change and carbon sequestration. This study segments NIPF landowners in the southern United States on the basis of their beliefs toward climate change and carbon sequestration. A K-means cluster analysis was used to segment their climate change and carbon sequestration beliefs into three broad clusters: skeptic, supportive, and neutral landowners. The results indicated that a majority of southern landowners (47%) held neutral beliefs, whereas the proportions of supportive and skeptical clusters were 35 and 18%, respectively. These belief clusters differ with respect to landowner income and education as well as their landownership and management characteristics. In terms of the future impact of climate change, 40% of landowners in the supportive cluster expected timber yield to fluctuate more than 5% on average but only 12% in the skeptic cluster expected it, whereas 24% of landowners in neutral cluster anticipated the same impact. Results of this study provide insights on the current beliefs of NIPF landowners toward climate change and carbon sequestration as well as strategies for effectively communicating climate change and carbon sequestration information to them.

Management and Policy Implications Nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) landowners' diverse belief types and skepticism toward climate change and carbon sequestration could be barriers to successful development and implementation of policies and programs related to climate change mitigation and adaptation. This study suggests that there is a need for reaching out to landowners with education and consultation programs related to climate change and carbon sequestration, including local impacts of climate change. Extension agents and service professionals are better suited to communicate this information to landowners; however, a tailored communication approach based on landowner belief types would be more effective and a realistic approach to meet landowner needs. In particular, landowners with a neutral belief type could be a major landowner group in which to focus outreach programs to reduce controversy and improve the effectiveness of such programs.
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Keywords: attitudes; cluster analysis; communication; family forest; risk perception

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2016

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