- Intact sagebrush communities in the Great Basin are rapidly disappearing due
to invasion of non-native plants, large wildfires, and encroachment of pinyon pine
and juniper woodlands. Land management options include the use of prescribed
fire, grazing, herbicides and mechanical treatments to reduce the potential for
wildfire and restore plant communities. Land managers in the region face a
complex and interrelated set of ecological, economic, and social challenges to the
implementation of these management practices. Effective restoration strategies
require consideration of citizens in the region and their acceptance of management
practices, as well as their trust in the agencies that implement them.
This longitudinal panel study (2006-2010) examines the social acceptability of
management options for rangeland restoration and public trust in agencies to carry
out these options in three urban and three rural regions of the Great Basin. Most
similar studies in this region have been largely place-based and cross-sectional,
focusing on communities at one point in time. Results from this study can be used
to evaluate the success of management programs, predict support for different
treatments, determine the impact of agency outreach efforts, and identify
important factors for building trust between communities and agencies across the
region. The study uses data from a mail-back questionnaire sent to residents in
2006 and again in 2010. Overall, 698 respondents comprise the panel of interest.
Results suggest landscape scale events such as wildfire, as well as agency
management and outreach programs, had little influence on respondents'
perceptions of agencies or management options over the study period. Several key
findings have persisted throughout the study: (1) acceptance is high for the use of
prescribed fire, grazing, felling, and mowing, but low for chaining and herbicide
use, though there are (2) low levels of public trust and confidence in agencies to
implement these management options, and (3) there are salient differences
between the region's rural and urban residents with important implications for
agency communication strategies. Most changes in response over the study period
were subtle, though the direction and strength of these changes highlight
noteworthy trends: (1) Great Basin residents are becoming more aware of key
threats facing rangelands, (2) they seem more interested in having a role in
making management decisions, and (3) they are slightly more positive about their
interactions with agency personnel. Finally, findings suggest many residents have
had little experience with agency outreach programs.
Trust and confidence in management agencies are key factors in garnering
support for restoration activities. While knowledge of management activities and
confidence in managers' ability to competently implement them certainly play a
role, findings strongly suggest sincerity factors (e.g., good communication or the
perception that agencies share citizens' goals, thoughts, or values) have the
greatest influence on acceptance of management practices in the Great Basin.
Results suggest it would be beneficial for agencies to take a more active role in
building trust with residents across the region. Differing levels of knowledge and
interest, as well as different concerns, found among rural and urban residents
highlight the need to tailor outreach strategies for use in specific communities.