Date of Award


Level of Access Assigned by Author

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forest Resources


Robert J. Lilieholm

Second Committee Member

Jessica Leahy

Third Committee Member

Mario Teisl


Gauging the level of social acceptability of an emerging industry has become increasingly important to its long-term economic sustainability, yet the concept of “social acceptability” can be imprecise and difficult to measure. This is due to the dynamic nature of the public’s attitudes and perceptions of any new or emerging industry. Time and information can substantially alter an industry’s social acceptability, but this should not be a reason to neglect this variable - especially during initial stages of development. Doing so may lead to significant delays in an industry’s development, resulting in additional industry start-up expense. Without measuring and addressing the level of social acceptability, the industry’s perceived externalities could significantly erode its positive economic effects to the local citizenry, resulting in a hostile relationship with locally affected populations.

This study measured Mainers’ attitudes towards: (1) the forest products industry; (2) forest management practices; (3) different attributes related to forest-based biorefineries; (4) certain individual characteristics that are hypothesized to influence social acceptability; and (5) the overall level of support for forest-based biorefinery projects. The measurements were taken to understand the public’s attitudes toward the forest-based bioproducts industry and its impact on related industries and the environment. Using the results from these measurements, certain research objectives were attempted. The first objective was to report and interpret the summary statistics from the measurements. The second objective was to determine if certain individual attitudes/characteristics and industry attributes were causally related to the level of support for the industry. The final objective was to compare the attitudes and perceptions of the general population of Maine with a subpopulation of towns that contained pulp and paper mills. The over-sampling and comparison of pulp and paper mill towns were considered crucial in this study since these areas would be most affected by the emergence of the forest-based biorefinery industry. We, therefore, view their attitudes particularly important in understanding the likelihood of the industry’s acceptance.

To accomplish these objectives, a mail survey was used to measure an individual’s pro-environmental attitudes, an individual’s level of economic insecurity, acceptance level of direct and indirect industry attributes, and other general attitudes toward the forest products industry. The analyses of these data emphasized a comparison between the general population and the subpopulation of pulp and paper mill towns.

Results show that, on average, there is support for biorefinery development in Maine, but that there are significant industry attributes and individual characteristics that influence this support for biorefinery development. Also, forest management practices are shown to be very important to both survey populations, with ecological services consistently rated the most important. The concept of “sustainability” is highly significant in influencing the level of support for industry-related projects in both sampling populations. Finally, there are some notable differences between the general population in Maine and the subpopulation of mill towns. We believe this is important since the industry’s externalities, both positive and negative, will be particularly acute within these population centers and will likely be the center for any resistance to and support for the industry.