Date of Award

8-2011

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

Baldwin, Robert F

Committee Member

Baldwin , Elizabeth D

Committee Member

Bridges Jr. , William C

Committee Member

Johnson , Ron J

Abstract

Because of a gap between the science and practice of conservation planning, it has been suggested that there is a need for better understanding of the social systems within which conservation projects are embedded. Given that more than half of the land in the United States is privately owned and that private land covers the majority of the mapped endangered species habitat, understanding attitudes of private landowners towards biodiversity conservation may help to bridge the science-practice gap. Aquatic biodiversity is particularly imperiled throughout the world; in the United States headwater streams and small, isolated wetlands receive little protection through regulations and thus have become a focus of conservation planning efforts. To assess how landowners view such efforts we randomly selected 500 parcel holders in the Blue Ridge and Piedmont regions of South Carolina and mailed a 27-question survey to 409 that met criteria. We received completed surveys from 70 respondents and analyzed the results using mixed quantitative and qualitative methods.
Our study showed that aquatic areas and the associated wildlife are valued by and show influence on the decisions of landowners in the South Carolina Piedmont and Blue Ridge ecoregions. Willingness to conserve and the tendency not to, are not inverse as would be expected. Rather they are positively correlated. We found that greater familiarity with specific state-wide land trusts has the greatest influence on landowners' knowledge of land trusts and their practices in general. We also found that distance from protected area has a curvature in its relationship to the willingness to protect aquatic areas; meaning willingness increases and then decreases with distance. Qualitative coding of text responses revealed a theme in landowners showing concern for threats of pollution from runoff and siltation. Perhaps most informative was the prevalence of apathy towards conservation. Disinterest in conservation through land trusts seemed prevalent throughout many of the respondents' answers, no matter their view of the importance of aquatic conservation. We conclude that any successful implementation of aquatic conservation initiatives must include focused outreach and education of landowners as to the benefits for society and landowners personally of landscape-scale cooperation with land trusts and other conservation mechanisms.

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