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Public trust and knowledge in the context of emerging climate-adaptive forestry policies

Peterson St-Laurent, Guillaume, Hagerman, Shannon, Findlater, Kieran M., Kozak, Robert
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.242 pp. 474-486
climate, climate change, decision making, forest industries, forest management, forests, governance, issues and policy, surveys, British Columbia
Effective governance of public forests depends, in part, on public support for changes in forest management, particularly those responding to changes in socio-ecological conditions driven by climate change. Trust in managing authorities and knowledge about forest management have proven influential in shaping public support for policy across different forest managemen contexts. However, little is known about the relationship between public trust and knowledge as it relates to policy support for emerging management strategies for climate adaptation in forests. We use the example of genomics-based assisted migration (within and outside of natural range) in British Columbia's (BC) forests to examine the relative roles of and interactions between trust in different forestry actors and knowledge of forestry in shaping public support for this new and potentially controversial management alternative. Our results, based on an online survey (n = 1953 BC residents), reveal low public trust in governments and the forest industry combined with low levels of public knowledge about forest management. We find that individuals who are more trusting of decision-makers and other important forestry actors hold higher levels of support for assisted migration. Higher levels of forestry knowledge are linked with support for assisted migration within native range, whereas no knowledge effect is observed for assisted migration outside of native range. We discuss the implications of these observations and provide recommendations to more fully engage with the challenges of low levels of trust and knowledge in this context.