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Perceptions regarding active management of the Cross-timbers forest resources of Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas: A SWOT-ANP analysis

Starr, Morgan, Joshi, Omkar, Will, Rodney E., Zou, Chris B.
Land use policy 2019 v.81 pp. 523-530
Juniperus virginiana, climate, data analysis, deciduous forests, ecoregions, ecosystems, ecotones, fires, focus groups, forest resources, fuels, grasslands, income, outreach, prescribed burning, stakeholders, surveys, urbanization, Great Plains region, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas
The Cross-timbers ecoregion, which stretches from north central Texas, through central Oklahoma, and up into southern Kansas, represents the broad ecotone between the eastern deciduous forest and the grasslands of the southern Great Plains. The region is threatened by both natural and anthropogenic factors including climate variability, the encroachment of eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), and urbanization. In particular, fire exclusion has dramatically changed the structure and composition of the Cross-timbers forests, which historically experienced multiple fires per decade. Active management practices such as prescribed fire, timber thinning, and fuels reduction are largely absent in the Cross-timbers forested ecosystems. This study utilized a mixed-mode data collection method, which involved focus group meetings as well as online survey administration, to determine how stakeholders perceive active management in the Cross-timbers forests. The requisite data were analyzed using the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT)-Analytic Network Process (ANP) framework. The results suggested that presence of healthy and resilient forests and the opportunities associated with increased revenue could be the driving forces in active Cross-timbers management. However, financial burden and uncontrolled fire were recognized as the major obstacles in these efforts. Tailoring appropriate outreach programs can help traditional and non-traditional stakeholders to identify appropriate management solutions in the Cross-timbers.