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Insights into individual and cooperative invasive plant management on family forestlands

Ma, Zhao, Clarke, Mysha, Church, Sarah P.
Land use policy 2018 v.75 pp. 682-693
collaborative management, collective action, decision making, ecosystems, education, forest land, forest ownership, interviews, invasive species, landowners, landscapes, outreach, plants (botany), private forestry, professionals, social environment, weed control, Indiana
Invasive species are reaching epidemic proportions, greatly altering global biomes. The role of private landowners in controlling invasive plants in forest ecosystems has been well recognized, although limited research has investigated their awareness, actions, needs and concerns. Building upon a broader literature on family forest owner decision making and invasive weed management in non-forested landscapes, we conducted 23 semi-structured interviews with family forest owners and forestry professionals in Indiana, USA. We documented and discussed (1) their knowledge and awareness of invasive plant management, (2) current invasive plant management actions, (3) issues surrounding cooperative invasive plant management, (4) how they understand the responsibility of invasive plant control across the landscape, and (5) an information challenge facing invasive plant management. Our results suggest that future education and outreach efforts should broaden to include urban and suburban residents, as well as forestry professionals who are often assumed to be supportive of and knowledgeable about invasive plant management. Our results also suggest that forestry professionals can help motivate family forest owners toward invasive plant management by providing positive psychological reinforcement such as social approval. Further, our results highlight a gap between the recognized importance of cooperative invasive plant management and a lack of on-the-ground practices mainly due to a family forest owner culture of independence. Overcoming the cultural stigma associated with cooperative management requires forestry professionals’ willingness and ability to cultivate a social environment conducive to collective actions by playing the role of community organizers. Together, these insights can be used to inform the development of future invasive plant communication strategies and private forest landowner assistance programs.