Date of Award

8-2016

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Jessica Leahy

Second Committee Member

John Daigle

Third Committee Member

Sandra De Urioste-Stone

Additional Committee Members

Stephanie Snyder

Crista Straub

Abstract

This two-part study identified community conservation leaders and private forest landowners as salient stakeholders in addressing invasive forest insects that threaten the forest resources of New England. The nascent role of community leaders and the extent of privately owned land in northern New England reveal opportunities to understand these stakeholders in the context of cross-boundary invasive forest insect response. The emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis) has been rapidly spreading since its 2002 discovery in Michigan. This research explored attitudes and behavioral intentions about emerald ash borer (EAB) education, early detection, and management.

Qualitative analysis of semi-structured interviews with community conservation leaders (n=20) demonstrated the role that social capital could play in information sharing and future early detection. University Cooperative Extension and state agencies were identified as especially viable networks for community conservation leaders addressing EAB. These networks were perceived as trustworthy and locally rooted, providing quality information and opportunities to engage with EAB information sharing and early detection potential. Participants were concerned about EAB, but were uncertain about how effective response efforts could be. Barriers to potential EAB education and early detection engagement were a sense of futility and detachment from the problem as a result of frequent invasive species outbreaks throughout the region. Community leaders can continue to play pivotal roles in reacting to community level problems, including EAB, if these barriers can be addressed via tailored outreach methods, collaboration during early detection, and the identification of specific roles in response efforts.

A mail survey of private forest landowners (n=344) revealed that landowners do not have a lot of knowledge about EAB, but were concerned about this invasive forest insect in their respective states. Respondents tended to express higher levels of trust in university Cooperative Extension and state agencies over federal natural resource agencies. Binary logistic regression was used to determine the impact that expressed risk perception and trust had on acceptance of both individual and cooperative EAB early detection and management actions. Analysis showed that expressed concern was the most salient risk perception factor, significantly predicting a higher likelihood that landowners would engage with EAB response behaviors. Harnessing the capacity of both landowners and community conservation leaders will make education, early detection, and management efforts more effective and efficient. Forest managers and natural resource agencies should incorporate this analysis into future outreach materials, in addition to local forest planning. Invasive forest insects will continue to threaten the region, so response avenues that include this powerful social component should be consistently considered.

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