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Twenty-four focus groups were held throughout the Pacific Northwest to assess family forest owners' perceptions, understanding, and educational needs related to climate change and its potential impacts on family-owned forests. Participants cited many information sources and often referenced personal observations and connections. Perceptions of climate science were mixed, but skepticism was common, particularly regarding the extent to which research is driven by politics, money, or ideology. Participants were uncertain about possible climate change impacts but expressed concern about both biophysical and sociopolitical dimensions. Most participants did not expect to make significant changes to their management in anticipation of climate change. However, many participants wanted to learn more about climate change and how it might affect their forests. Results of these focus groups should provide insights for integrating climate science into extension programming in a variety of contexts, and suggestions for future extension programming are presented.
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human dimensions
Family Forest Owners and Climate Change:
Understanding, Attitudes, and Educational
Amy T. Grotta, Janean H. Creighton, Christopher Schnepf, and
Sylvia Kantor
Twenty-four focus groups were held throughout the Pacific Northwest to assess family forest owners’ perceptions,
understanding, and educational needs related to climate change and its potential impacts on family-owned
forests. Participants cited many information sources and often referenced personal observations and connections.
Perceptions of climate science were mixed, but skepticism was common, particularly regarding the extent to
which research is driven by politics, money, or ideology. Participants were uncertain about possible climate
change impacts but expressed concern about both biophysical and sociopolitical dimensions. Most participants did
not expect to make significant changes to their management in anticipation of climate change. However, many
participants wanted to learn more about climate change and how it might affect their forests. Results of these
focus groups should provide insights for integrating climate science into extension programming in a variety of
contexts, and suggestions for future extension programming are presented.
Keywords: extension, climate change, family forest owners, communication
amily forest owners (FFOs) control
more than 60% of the private forest-
land in the United States (Butler
2008). In Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and
Alaska, family-owned forests make up more
than 6.9 million acres and more than
200,000 families each own between 5 and
10,000 acres (USDA Forest Service 2006).
Family forests are critical to timber, water,
wildlife, and many other shared values.
Because these lands tend to be dispropor-
tionately located in lower elevations, along
stream corridors, and near population cen-
ters, they provide critically important eco-
system functions and other public benefits.
Climate change is predicted to acceler-
ate through the 21st century (Mote and
Salathe´ 2010), leading to changes in forest
species distribution (McKenney et al. 2007,
Coops and Waring 2011), productivity
(Coops and Waring 2001), and disturbance
regimes (Waring et al. 2011). These changes
may have profound impacts on public and
private benefits from forests and managers’
strategies to sustain these benefits.
Public land managers in the western
United States are actively addressing climate
change through research into projected for-
est impacts, vulnerability assessments, and
strategies for adaptation and mitigation
(Council of Western State Foresters 2010,
Peterson et al. 2011). Climate change will
also affect family-owned forest lands, but
how are FFOs addressing climate change?
The degree to which landowners will partic-
ipate in educational opportunities or under-
take adaptation or mitigation activities may
depend on their perception of individual
risk from climate change (O’Conner et al.
1999). FFOs consider many aspects of
risk when making management decisions
(Fischer and Charnley 2010); however, it is
not known to what extent these owners con-
sider climate change as a risk to their forests.
Charnley et al. (2010) suggested that FFOs
could play a significant role in mitigating
climate change through participation in car-
bon markets; however, they pointed out that
there is very little research on how these
owners perceive climate change and their in-
terest in engaging in forest management
practices to increase carbon sequestration.
Received June 27, 2012; accepted November 6, 2012; published online December 20, 2012.
Affiliations: Amy T. Grotta (, Oregon State University, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, St. Helens, OR. Janean H.
Creighton (, Oregon State University, College of Forestry, Corvallis, OR. Christopher Schnepf (, University
of Idaho Extension, Coeur d’ Alene, ID. Sylvia Kantor (, Washington State University, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources,
Seattle, WA.
Acknowledgments: This research was supported by a grant from the USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. We are grateful to John Bliss and several
anonymous reviewers, whose comments significantly improved this article.
Journal of Forestry March 2013 87
J. For. 111(2):87–93
Copyright © 2013 Society of American Foresters
Although social scientists have documented
the range of public attitudes and perceptions
of climate change and of the validity of in-
formation sources regarding climate change
(e.g., Nisbet and Myers 2007, Kahan et al.
2011, Leiserowitz et al. 2012a, 2012b), in-
formation regarding these attitudes specifi-
cally among FFOs is lacking.
FFOs often look to university extension
as a partner and trusted source of education
on forest management (Gootee et al. 2010).
As new knowledge about potential climate
change impacts on US forests is generated,
extension educators are developing related
education and technology transfer programs
for FFOs. To ensure that new research and
extension efforts related to climate change is
relevant for FFOs, we conducted a needs as-
sessment to determine FFOs’ state of knowl-
edge and educational needs regarding cli-
mate change and their forests. Our research
yielded information regarding FFOs’ per-
ceptions and attitudes toward climate sci-
ence, information, and impacts and pro-
vided insights into how they may (or may
not) incorporate information they receive
into the management of their forests.
We conducted a series of focus group
discussions (Krueger and Casey 2005, Mor-
gan 1997) in Washington, Oregon, Idaho,
and Alaska in 2009–2010. Focus groups are
a research method often used to learn about
people’s perceptions on a complex topic
(Krueger and Casey 2005); they have been
used in researching public perceptions of
various natural resource issues, including
priorities for forest management (Kingsley
et al. 1988, Racevskis and Lupi 2006), her-
bicide use (Howle et al. 2010), wildfire haz-
ard (Winter and Fried 2000), and ecosystem
services (Kaplowitz and Hoehn 2001),
among many others. One of the unique
strengths of focus group methods is partici-
pant interaction, which can draw out addi-
tional insights on participants’ views com-
pared with individual interviews or surveys
(Egan et al. 1995, Krueger and Casey 2005).
Six focus groups were held within
each state for a total of 24 groups (Figure 1),
ranging from 4 to 14 participants each (me-
dian 8; total participants in all groups
193). The group locations were also catego-
rized into four broad regions: Boreal/Alas-
kan Interior, Coastal, Inland Northwest,
and Northern Rockies.
Most participants were recruited by lo-
cal extension personnel and were selected to
represent a cross-section of FFO demo-
graphics in terms of ownership size and ten-
ure (Table 1). Nearly all participants were
FFOs; however, about one-third of the
Alaska participants identified themselves as
public resource managers and Native corpo-
ration representatives.
Length of tenure
among our participants reflected the overall
FFO population in the four states (Butler
2008); however, ownership size was skewed
toward larger ownerships among our partic-
ipants. We intentionally tried to recruit par-
ticipants who were familiar with extension
programming, so participants would under-
stand the context in which climate change
extension programming might be provided.
This sampling strategy introduces a poten-
tial bias; thus, although our results provide
insights into how extension clientele per-
ceive the topics discussed, they cannot be
generalized to all FFOs.
Two researchers conducted each focus
group, with one serving as the lead facilitator
and the other recording notes. After a brief
introduction and discussion of logistics and
confidentiality, the facilitator asked partici-
pants to introduce themselves and describe
their forest and then introduced guiding
questions as the discussion unfolded (Table
2). These questions were purposely open-
ended to stimulate active discussion among
participants about their knowledge, atti-
tudes, and educational needs regarding cli-
mate change and potential forest manage-
ment impacts. One question was added to
the questioning route because it emerged as
an important theme in the first focus group
(Table 2). Discussions typically lasted 2
hours and included a meal. Each session was
videotaped and audio recorded with partic-
ipants’ consent and recordings were tran-
scribed verbatim.
Using an inductive approach, four
researchers organized the data according to
the conceptual linkages of expressions that
emerged during the discussions. Based on
these linkages and the recurrence of topics,
themes were developed (Glaser and Strauss
1999, Ryan and Bernard 2003). In analytic
induction, this type of thematic analysis is a
means for identifying and expressing pat-
terns in qualitative data. The researchers
coded statements made by participants into
categories reflective of observed patterns
in the data. Statements were coded using
computer-assisted qualitative data analysis
software (NVivo; QSR International, Don-
caster, VIC, Australia). The coded state-
ments were then positioned into larger
themes and illustrated by representative
quotations. The initial codes and themes
were reviewed by all the authors through
multiple stages of increasingly restrictive
coding (Boyatzis 1998) to standardize and
refine the understanding of the patterns in
question. Narratives of the emergent themes
were then reviewed and simplified by retain-
ing the most representative quotations and
noting the most common overlap in state-
ments by participants. To ensure intercoder
reliability, each transcript was coded inde-
pendently by at least two researchers. Inter-
coder reliability was achieved when strong
agreements occurred between individual
coders regarding the identified themes and
appropriate linkages developed for a given
transcript. This agreement provides confi-
dence that the identified themes are appro-
priate, given the use of the same coding
techniques, and suggests that the conceptu-
Management and Policy Implications
Understanding climate change and its potential impacts is critical to maintaining productive and healthy
forestlands. Family forest owners’ understanding and perceptions of climate change are wide-ranging, and
complicated by mistrust in source information, lack of certainty, and anxiety regarding potential
regulatory impacts. Extension is regarded by many forest owners as a source of less-biased information
and is poised to engage family forest owners on climate change, potential impacts to forests, and
adaptation strategies. Effective extension programming should embrace relevant and sound climate
science and develop information and tools that are applicable to landowners’ needs in the context of their
decisionmaking processes. Maintaining stakeholder trust is often critical to being an effective educator at
the local level; therefore, some extension educators may be reluctant to address climate change because
the topic has become so politicized. The results of this study may help extension educators develop
programming around climate in a way that maintains or even builds on those trusting relationships.
Programs built around transparency, local relevance, and risk assessment should resonate well with the
intended audience.
88 Journal of Forestry March 2013
alization of the themes and their linkages are
valid (Sandelowski 1995).
Climate Change Information Sources,
Credibility, and Trust
Participants heard about climate
change from many sources. Some had
sought out in-depth information about cli-
mate change but most described a passive
flow of information from their “regular” me-
dia outlets including watching network tele-
vision, listening to the radio, or reading news
from Internet sources. Participants repeat-
edly questioned the validity of information
received through the media and other sourc-
es: not knowing whom to trust or what in-
formation was credible and expressing con-
cern about how much of it seemed biased
toward a specific ideological, political, or fi-
nancial agenda. The media were often de-
scribed as providing conflicting information
or not delving deeply enough into the sci-
ence. The idea that climate change informa-
tion is highly politicized and therefore a
factor that creates ambiguity emerged fre-
I think you always have to look at what the
source is of the information and what kind
of an ax they have to grind by what they’re
tellin’. There’s politics involved in almost
all of that stuff and, if they’ve got a reason
for saying that global warming is bad, and
we’ve got to turn off these fossil fuels maybe
that’s because they’re in the alternative en-
ergy business and they’ve got somethin’ to
gain from it—and that’s why I’m to the
point where I’m just totally confused on the
issue. I have no idea whether man is having
any impact on global warming or not.
[Coeur D’Alene, ID]
Participants generally described the sci-
entific community as a more credible infor-
mation source than the media. However,
concern about scientific bias arose repeat-
edly among the groups. Bias in climate sci-
ence was discussed from several angles and
engendered substantial skepticism and dis-
trust, for example, the perception that scien-
tists are biased by the need to generate fund-
Well even science is—you know, they get
the grants, and they write the grants to cli-
mate change, and that’s the way you get
’em—‘cause that’s what’s popular. And so I
don’t trust a lot of the scientific stuff that
comes out. [Baker City, OR]
Climate models were another source of
skepticism and distrust. Participants did not
always make distinctions among models that
are predictive, simulative, or explanatory of
existing trends, nor did they necessarily con-
nect models to their basis in empirical data.
Some indicated that climate models could
be manipulated to produce desired results
Figure 1. Location of focus groups.
Table 1. Forest owners participating in focus groups by ownership size and length
of tenure.
Ownership size No. of forest owners Years of ownership No. of forest owners
1–24 acres 30 0–10 28
25–49 acres 21 11–20 38
50–99 acres 25 21–30 29
100–249 acres 36 31–40 25
250–999 acres 24 40 26
1000 acres 29
Acreage and tenure data were not available for two of the focus groups. Nonforest owners are not shown.
Journal of Forestry March 2013 89
and expressed discomfort with scientists’ re-
lying on modeled predictions:
You can tweak the variables, to make things
come out the way you would like them to
come out. [Moscow, ID]
Computer models don’t demonstrate any-
thing. [Bend, OR]
Participants’ personal connections,
such as friends or relatives who were highly
educated or worked in the environmental
sciences, and sources related to a partici-
pant’s profession (e.g., technical and peer-
reviewed journals) were also cited as sources
of information about climate change. Partic-
ipants also noted a variety of public figures,
nonprofit and science-based organizations,
and associations of which they were mem-
bers. In Alaska, both Native and non-Native
participants cited longtime residents, espe-
cially Native elders, as knowledgeable
sources. All of these sources, together with
participants’ own life experiences or obser-
vations were described as trusted sources of
information. The recognition that individ-
ual belief systems can trump scientific evi-
dence was articulated by one participant:
. . . It’s what you believe; it’s what you have
built your whole life internalizing. So either
you’re in one camp or the other. You may
be able to rationally discuss it, but what you
believe is what you believe. [Coeur
D’Alene, ID]
Perceptions of Biophysical and Socio-
political Impacts
In nearly all groups, participants refer-
enced personal observations, including cur-
rent weather, climate trends (or lack thereof)
over the course of their lives, and historical
records. Generally, Washington, Oregon,
and Idaho landowners did not attribute
their observations to climate change, nor
was there consensus about whether observed
conditions such as increased insect or fire
activity were related to climate change.
However, Alaskans attributed a variety of
environmental changes to climate change,
such as receding glaciers, thawing perma-
frost, forest regeneration problems, shorter
hunting seasons, spruce trees encroaching
on bogs, and lower-lake levels:
We don’t know how fast it’s coming . . .
and we don’t know exactly what’s causing
it, but we can kind of put two and two to-
gether to see that there are drastic changes
on a big scale that are affecting a lot of areas;
so that’s what kind of concerns me is, global
warming was kind of a thing that, when I
was younger we barely knew the term,
didn’t really understand much about it and
we thought it affected other parts of the
world. But now we realize that it’s right
here, it’s affecting us a lot. [Anchor Point,
Participants from all four states were
unsure about potential future impacts of cli-
mate change on their forests. Some antici-
pated reforestation failure, increased insect
or disease, increased fire, invasive species,
and species distribution changes, but felt un-
certain about the magnitude of these
changes or their consequences:
A two-degree change in temperature could
have a big impact on what kind of insects
are gonna start attacking our trees. But I
think it’s the subtlety of change, and the
lack of understanding of what that change
can mean in terms of impact, that we need
to have a better handle on. [Baker City,
Some landowners believed climate
change impacts would be positive, citing the
possibility of increased tree growth from
higher CO
levels, longer growing seasons,
or increased precipitation. Some remarked
that they were accustomed to changing con-
ditions because of the dynamic nature of for-
est systems and long-term forest manage-
ment cycles. They did not distinguish
changing conditions due to climate versus
other drivers:
I think if you’re a forest landowner, you
work or you live in a dynamic environment.
Forests are continually changing. So we’re
all familiar with the changing environment
I think. The other thing is if you deal with
forests you already have a long-term view.
And the way that I look at climate change is
it’s almost like a forest: it’s changing, and
it’s a long-term thing; it’s been changing
forever. [Baker City, OR]
Concern about the social and political
impacts of climate change commonly en-
gendered lively discussion. Some landown-
ers said they were more concerned about
regulatory constraints to their forest man-
agement from climate change-related poli-
cies than about potential biophysical im-
pacts. Sometimes, these ideas were expressed
in connection to attitudes toward existing
policies affecting local forests, for example,
west of the Cascades, endangered species
policy, and in the Inland Northwest, fire and
public lands policies:
I’m not so worried about climate change as
I am concerned about the impact of climate
change policy on my ability to manage my
tree farm. I do see more stress on our
ground, particularly in the last 10 years that
I think is somewhat related to drought,
whether or not there’s a tie to climate
change, goes back to the conflicting infor-
mation somebody needs to sort out. . . . But
I think the agenda behind some of the more
extreme groups pushing the climate change
policy has far more implications for how we
can manage our forest. It looks to me like
it’s—the next spotted owl. [Centralia, WA]
The thing that I’m concerned about, is this
kind of attitude, or a policy position that’s
been mentioned by the US Forest Service,
that we have climate change, and that ex-
plains why we’re suffering so many thou-
sands of acres of beetle kill. We’re not suf-
fering thousands of acres of beetle kill
because of climate change; we’re suffering
thousands of acres of beetle kill, in my opin-
ion, from decades and decades of fire sup-
pression. And, the withdrawal of a national
forest timber sale. [Baker City, OR]
Responses to Perceived Impacts
Generally, participants reported that
they were managing forests to provide wild-
life habitat, increase biodiversity, improve
forest health, and seek financial gain, but
very few reported changing or adapting
management practices on a significant scale
in anticipation of climate change. Many par-
ticipants indicated that they lacked suffi-
cient local information to change their man-
agement practices, but that managing for
resiliency, by diversifying species and reduc-
ing stand density, made sense. Several be-
lieved climate change would be gradual, giv-
ing them time to react or that species might
adapt to changing conditions. Some indi-
cated that changing management practices
now to adapt to climate scenarios many de-
cades away was at odds with the time scale of
timber growing rotations or with the land-
owners’ management horizons of a few years
to decades. For many, more immediate con-
cerns were a priority.
How much do I want to invest on the basis
of climate change when I don’t know that
there’s enough information out there—I
mean, do we really know that 10 years from
now our summers are gonna on average be
Table 2. Questioning route used for all
focus group discussions.
1. Tell us about your forest...[icebreaker].
2. Where do you get information about climate
3. How do you assess the validity of the information
you receive about climate change?*
4. How do you think climate change may or may not
impact your forest?
5. What are you doing differently on your forest (if
anything) as a result of anticipated climate change?
6. What are your major questions about climate
7. In what form would you like to get information
about climate change?
8. Do you have any further questions or comments?
* This question was added to the questioning route after the
first focus group because it emerged as an important topic.
90 Journal of Forestry March 2013
drier? Or are they gonna be warmer, but
wetter? I don’t know. [St. Maries, ID]
I work with a lot of Native corporations as
well as individual landowners and so far I
have not seen it on their radar screen.
They’re much more focused on the imme-
diate problems and needs. Even the largest
Native corporation, Sealaska, which is
about the most advanced one for forestry,
it’s just not on their planning horizon at the
moment. And they have other issues that
are more pressing: subsistence for their
shareholders and income. [Anchorage, AK]
Research and Education Needs
Some participants expressed a desire for
extension to help them sort through com-
peting claims and complex information and
distill climate science into more easily di-
gestible forms:
We’re not able to transcend the political
rhetoric and get to the core issues, and I
think that would be a great, great process
for a university to try to sort that out. Or
give us the tools to sort that out. ‘Cause how
do you make your mind up when you’ve
got 1,500 PhDs on one side and 2,300
PhDs on the other side and they’re diamet-
rically opposed? [Centralia, WA]
Participants emphasized that they
wanted information that addressed local
conditions whenever possible. It was impor-
tant that climate projections be compared
with historic climate and weather fluctua-
tions, at a local scale:
Give us some sense of—like you’re seeing
we have these drought periods and wet pe-
riods and whatnot, what’s that look like in
the past, and then—lookin’ over all those
trends, are we lookin’ at peaks that are big-
ger than we had historically or valleys that
are bigger than we had historically? [Gran-
geville, ID]
They’re not collecting data other than just
this national, across-the-board worldwide
kind of thing and they’re not really getting
into specifics zones and areas. What does it
mean in Athol? [Coeur d’Alene, ID]
Interest in learning about adaptation
strategies (i.e., changing the mix of species or
seed sources in planting, or density manage-
ment to improve forest health and resilience)
was expressed more often than mitigation
strategies (i.e., carbon sequestration). Gen-
erally, participants were less interested in en-
gaging in climate science debates than in
prescriptive forest management alternatives
for different types of sites and stands keyed
to different climate projections:
I know you can’t make any hard and fast
predictions or anything, but maybe if you
could come up with something that would
kind of suggest which trees would be ex-
pected to thrive and which ones maybe
would decline. That sort of practical infor-
mation would be very helpful. [Mount Ver-
non, WA]
Trust in Information Sources, Values,
and Beliefs
Although we did not ask participants
specifically about their acceptance of climate
change as a fact, we did ask them to identify
their individual sources of information on
climate change. Distrust of scientific re-
search regarding climate change emerged as
an important theme; on the other hand, par-
ticipants’ personal observations and inter-
pretations of climatic trends as well as those
of individuals or organizations with whom
they were aligned personally or profession-
ally were influential in shaping their percep-
tions of climate change. The relative impor-
tance of these latter forces may explain why
Alaskans in our study were more likely to
perceive climate change as an important fac-
tor shaping their forests. In Alaska, recent
changes to the natural landscape are much
more dramatic and visible than those in
the other three states of our study; Native
elders were also noted as an important and
trusted reference for long-term patterns of
Our findings agree with previous stud-
ies of public trust in science, which showed
that individuals place more trust in “nonex-
perts” such as friends and close associates
than in scientific or government “experts”
(Greenberg and Williams 1999). Other
studies exploring public perceptions of cli-
mate change suggest that when confronted
with conflicting information about a topic,
people do not necessarily consider all they
hear, rather, they tend to listen to sources
they trust the most (Malka et al. 2009), and
that individuals form opinions regarding
what is presented as factual evidence based
on their core values and beliefs, not neces-
sarily on the strength of the evidence itself
(Kahan et al. 2007).
Landowners perceived climate change
as highly politicized. Whereas many forestry
applications that ultimately emerge from
climate research may be thought of as apo-
litical (e.g., modifying thinning regimes or
seed source selections), some landowners
might reject them if they associate climate
change with a belief system they do not
share. On the other hand, espousal of these
concepts by a trusted individual (i.e., a peer
landowner or professional) might promote
adoption—as conceptualized in the classic
“diffusion of innovation” model (Rogers
Risk Management
Risk management incorporates an anal-
ysis of risk factors, their likelihood, magni-
tude of impacts, and positive and negative
consequences of action or inaction (Hum-
mel et al. 2009). Landowners in our focus
groups did not explicitly mention risk anal-
ysis or management when discussing their
response to climate change; however, their
conversations suggest their use of risk analy-
sis principles in assessing and responding to
climate impacts. For example, their recogni-
tion of uncertainty within climate science
implies consideration of the likelihood and
magnitude of an impact from climate
change, and their attention to time scales of
projected impacts in the context of their
own management time horizons implies
consideration of the consequences of action
or inaction. Extensionists are accustomed to
incorporating risk management principles
into programming for FFOs focused on var-
ious forest threats, such as insect and dis-
eases. Our focus group participants’ stated
interest in practical information regarding
climate impacts and management strategies
to mitigate those impacts suggests their in-
terest in risk management tools related to
climate change as well.
In agriculture, risk management tools,
namely seasonal climate forecasts, may only
be one factor in farmers’ complex decision-
making processes about yearly operations,
alongside commodity prices, time and labor
supply, and social and cultural values (Crane
et al. 2010). A wide set of personal values
and goals factor into FFOs’ management de-
cisions (Brunson et al. 1996, Creighton et al.
2002). Therefore, it may not be reasonable
to expect risk management tools developed
to assess climate change adaptation strategies
to quickly translate into FFOs’ adoption of
new strategies, especially when they do not
fit an owner’s management time horizon,
time and labor supply, and management ob-
Recommendations for Extension
Because the topic of climate change has
become so highly politicized, some exten-
sion educators may be hesitant to address it
with their clientele. However, although fo-
cus group participants held varying degrees
of skepticism, belief, and concern regarding
climate change, most were interested in
Journal of Forestry March 2013 91
learning about potential impacts to their for-
ests. Our results suggest that transparency,
local context, uncertainty, and forest man-
agement and policy implications are impor-
tant considerations for engaging FFOs on
climate change. Landowners’ management
objectives, interest, and skills and abilities
should also be considered in developing ef-
fective programs.
Because of the perception of “politics
and money” that many forest owners associ-
ate with climate change dialogue, research
that supports climate change programming
needs to be as transparent as possible. Exten-
sion and research can support this by ac-
knowledging FFOs’ concerns and attitudes
regarding climate science. Possible ap-
proaches to improving transparency include
clarifying who did the research and why and
how it was funded and making research
methods and results clear and understand-
able to a layperson.
Local Frame of Reference
Rural residents’ views of global envi-
ronmental issues are often framed by local
conditions (Hamilton et al. 2012). Our
study and those of others (e.g., Kahan et al.
2007, Creighton et al. 2008, Gootee et al.
2010) show that information sources that
reflect an individual’s cultural context or
sense of place are influential in shaping per-
ceptions. Because these FFOs referenced
their personal landscape in thinking about
climate change, information that is tied to a
place, an ecosystem, or even a particular for-
est stand type is likely to be more meaning-
Understanding Modeling and
Modeling is a key tool for understand-
ing climate change projections, yet skepti-
cism toward models is common across the
general public and in the media (Akerlof et
al. 2012). Extension programming to in-
crease understanding of development and
use of models (e.g., predictions versus pro-
jections), evaluation of model quality, and
sources of model uncertainties can help
landowners navigate climate science. Dis-
cussing model projections many people use
every day (e.g., weather and economic fore-
casts) and models that have long been used
within forestry (e.g., forest growth-and-yield
models) may be helpful. Given their interest
in local information on temperature, precip-
itation, and potential impacts, FFOs need to
understand the risk of applying larger-scale
model projections to finer, local scales. Un-
derstanding model outputs and their associ-
ated uncertainties is important in analyzing
the risks and benefits of adaptation strate-
Adapting Forest Management to
Changing Climate
Programming focused on managing
forests for resiliency in the face of environ-
mental uncertainty and extreme events may
be well received by landowners regardless of
their position on climate change. Emphasiz-
ing practical on-the-ground management
strategies and their associated risks and ben-
efits offers FFOs tools they can use and ap-
preciate. For example, given participants’
interest in impacts on forest insects, disease,
and invasive species, consideration of best-
case to worst-case climate change scenarios
and related implications for forest manage-
ment could offer useful decision tools for
many forest owners.
Programming on Forest Policy
Landowners were concerned about po-
tential regulatory constraints on their ability
to manage their forests. Kahan et al. (2007)
suggested that individuals with negative ex-
pectations regarding policy arising from cli-
mate change are more likely to distrust in-
formation that affirms climate change and
more willing to believe such information if
proposed policy solutions are not threaten-
ing. In light of this, extension could facilitate
landowner participation in shaping climate-
related public policies that affect forestland.
Suggested intermediate strategies include
developing leadership skills among FFOs,
enabling participation in state and local
committees and task forces, and facilitating
development of grassroots collaborations on
local forest policy issues. Reaching landown-
ers through an issue of personal value (in this
case, forest policy) could be an avenue for
deeper discussions of climate change, cli-
mate science, and forest management impli-
cations and lessen distrust associated with
these topics.
A variety of views and levels of under-
standing about climate change were ex-
pressed among FFOs in the focus groups we
conducted. We have highlighted findings re-
lated to perceived credibility of climate sci-
ence, the importance of personal experience
and worldviews in shaping perceptions
about climate change, concern about cur-
rent and future biological and sociopolitical
impacts, and interest in adaptation strate-
gies. Although these findings are unique to
the extension clientele in the Pacific North-
west who participated in our study, they can
be useful in understanding the spectrum of
FFOs throughout the United States and in
developing climate change-related program-
ming to serve them.
1. Alaska has relatively few FFOs and its forests
are dominated by federal and Native corpora-
tion-owned lands. Because Alaska extension
personnel view these latter groups as critical
audiences, we included them in our focus
group recruitment.
2. More detailed results from each state are avail-
able in Creighton et al. (2011), Grotta et al.
(2011), Kantor et al. (2011), and Schnepf et
al. (2011).
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Journal of Forestry March 2013 93
... Past studies focused primarily on willingness to participate in carbon markets or broader tax incentives and few have been conducted in the last decade (Charnley et al., 2010;Husa and Kosenius, 2021;Jayasuriya et al., 2020;Khanal et al., 2017;Li et al., 2021;Markowski-Lindsay et al., 2011;Miller et al., 2012). In that time, climate change has become more emphasized in the media (Pearce et al., 2019;Sabherwal et al., 2021), Americans have increasingly acknowledged the reality of climate change (Ballew et al., 2019), and climate change impacts are being recognized in our global and local experiences (Grotta et al., 2013;Marlon et al., 2019;Pianta and Sisco, 2020). Familiarity and beliefs about climate change can influence NIPF owners' management decisions and, thus, our study helps shed light on the current beliefs and willingness within this societal context (Lenart and Jones, 2014). ...
... NIPF owners can play a significant role in climate mitigation through actions on their forest lands, but less is known about how NIPF owners perceptions of climate change impact their participation in forest management to maintain carbon storage and increase carbon sequestration (Charnley et al., 2010). Climate skepticism, along with a perception of climate change as highly politicized, is common among NIPF owners in the Pacific Northwest (Grotta et al., 2013). Skepticism toward and political polarization surrounding climate change and carbon sequestration could be barriers to successful implementation of policies and programs related to climate change mitigation and adaptation (Fischer and Charnley, 2011;Khanal et al., 2016). ...
... The lack of importance of "forest carbon" versus "forest health" framing might be explained by the fact that most NIPF owners believed that forests can help reduce climate change impacts and thus, could view forest health and forest carbon as synonymous. While NIPF owners might not perceive the framing of the policy as important, forest management actions included in the programs (i.e., reducing timber harvest) might still be rejected by NIPF owners if they associate them with a political or climate change belief system oppositional to their own (Grotta et al., 2013). ...
Privately-owned forests in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) are important potential carbon sinks and play a large role in carbon sequestration and storage. Non-industrial private forest (NIPF) owners constitute a substantial portion of overall forest landownership in productive regions of the PNW; however, little is known about their preferences for non-market incentive programs aimed at increased carbon storage and sequestration, specifically by limiting timber harvest, and how those preferences might impact the outcome of forest carbon programs. We simulated landscape-scale outcomes of hypothetical forest carbon incentive programs in western Oregon (USA) by combining empirical models of NIPF owners' participation with spatially explicit forest carbon storage and sequestration data. We surveyed landowners to determine their willingness to enroll in various hypothetical forest management incentive programs that varied in terms of harvest restrictions, contract length, annual payment and incentive payment amounts, and cost-share percentages, as well as the program framing (e.g., carbon versus forest health). We used multinomial logistic regression to model whether landowners might enroll based on program attributes, landowners' attitudes toward climate change and forest management, past and planned future forest harvest activities, and socio-demographics. We found that 36% of respondents stated that they would probably or definitely enroll in at least one of the hypothetical programs they were shown while 21% of respondents refused all programs that they were offered. Our final model of landowner willingness to enroll indicated that higher annual and higher cost-share payments were the strongest positive predictors of whether landowners would enroll vs. not enroll. Landowners' willingness to enroll was not influenced by program framing as either a “forest carbon” or a “forest health”; however, landowner attitudes toward climate change were the next strongest positive predictor of enrollment after annual and cost-share payments. By simulating landowner enrollment in six policy relevant program scenarios, we illustrate that carefully designed forest carbon incentive programs for NIPF owners could have tangible carbon protection benefits (16.25 to 50.31 MMT CO2e cumulative) at relatively low costs per MT CO2e ($3.60 to $7.70). We highlight tradeoffs between maximizing enrollment in forest carbon incentive programs and providing longer term protection of carbon. This research contributes to the literature on the design of potential forest carbon incentive programs and communication about forest carbon management, as well as aims to aid policy makers and program administrators that seek ways to engage private landowners in carbon-oriented forest management.
... There are still challenges to implementing climate adaptive practices in much of the West that prevent more family forest owners from being active managers. Other studies have similarly argued that climate change is not a primary driver of management decisions by most family forest owners in the US, Sweden, and Wales (Blennow, 2012;Grotta et al., 2013;Lawrence and Marzano, 2014;Andersson and Keskitalo, 2018), and those who did take action perceived higher climate risks (Blennow, 2012). Boag et al. (2018) found that while the majority of landowners in eastern Oregon did not prioritize intentional adaptation, they were active managers and accomplished incidental adaptation through managing for their other goals. ...
... Family forest owners who were not concerned about climate change or did not believe in human-caused climate change could be convinced to implement practices that help promote forest resilience. This reflects the recommendations of Morris et al. (2016) and Grotta et al. (2013) who advocate focusing on minimizing risk in forests because both forestry professionals and landowners have mixed opinions on the causes of climate change. Yet others point out the "risk of not fully recognizing the specific effects of climate change" and being able to adapt as its effects continue to change (Andersson and Keskitalo, 2018, p. 81). ...
... Some best adaptation practices are challenging to implement within a small property or require coordination across ownerships, (i.e., a spatial scale challenge) or conflict with shorter-term property goals (i.e., a temporal scale challenge) (Schultz et al., 2019). Grotta et al. (2013) found that private landowners in the Pacific Northwest similarly struggled with long-timescale adaptation management conflicting with shorter term goals. They also may not see the benefits of individualized action without a more collective and cross-boundary strategy. ...
Full-text available
In the United States (US), family forest owners, a group that includes individuals, families, trusts, and estates, are the largest single landowner category, owning approximately one-third of the nation's forests. These landowners' individualized decision-making on forest management has a profound impact on US forest cover and function at both local and regional scales. We sought to understand perceptions among family forest specialists of: climate impacts and adaptation options across different forested US regions; how family forest owners are taking climate adaptation into consideration in their forest management, if at all; and major barriers to more active management for adaptation among family forest owners. We conducted semi-structured interviews with 48 forest experts across the US who work with family forest owners, including extension specialists, state forestry agency employees, and consulting foresters who focus on family forest engagement. Our interviewees shared details on how both climate change impacts and forest management for climate adaptation vary across the US, and they perceived a lack of active forest management by family forest owners. They explained that western forest landowners confronting the imminent threat of catastrophic wildfires are more likely to see a need for active forest management. By contrast, in the east, where most forestland is privately owned, interviewees said that landowners see relatively fewer climate impacts on their forests and less need for forest management to respond to climate change. Perceived barriers to more active family forest management for climate adaptation include the lack of more robust markets for a wide range of forest products, a higher capacity forestry workforce, education and assistance in planning forest management, and addressing the issue of increased parcelization of family forest lands. We situate these perceptions in conversations on the role of boundary organizations in climate adaptation, how individual adaptation occurs, and how governing methods frame adaptation possibilities.
... Within natural resource management, climate change risk perceptions have been widely studied (Ameztegui et al. 2018;Blennow et al. 2016;Grotta, Creighton, and Schnepf 2013). Previous research suggests that increased climate change risk perceptions can be important predictors of the perceived need to change, and have been linked to readiness for adaptation within natural resource management (Leiserowitz 2006). ...
... Experiences can invoke strong feelings, making them more dominant in risk processing (Loewenstein et al. 2001), and are correlated with increased perceived risk as well as greater acceptance, level of concern, and engagement with climate change . For those intimately tied to landscapes, the meaning of information on climate change impacts and environmental changes are largely understood through personal place-based experiences (Grotta, Creighton, and Schnepf 2013). Within forestry, personal experience with climate change has been positively related to higher risk perceptions and increased levels of support for conservation strategies (Peterson St-Laurent, Hagerman, and Kozak 2018). ...
Climate change is impacting forest ecosystems, which support key ecosystem services and the general well-being of natural resource-dependent communities in Northeastern, USA. Understanding the determinants of climate change risk perceptions among forest resource stakeholders is critical to eliciting broad support for adaptation. We examined social-psychological drivers of climate change risk perceptions using hierarchical regression based on an online survey of 211 forest stakeholders, representing a wide range of subsectors, in Maine, USA. Using the climate change risk perceptions model (CCRPM), we explained 70% of the variance in risk perception. Political orientation, belief in climate change, social norms, affect, and experience with weather-related impacts were all significant predictors of perceived risk. Mediation results demonstrate that experience with weather-related impacts influences risk perceptions indirectly via attribution and holistic affect. This study advances our understanding of the social-psychological determinants of climate change risk perceptions, with implications for communication and outreach strategies.
... A good number of studies have focused on understanding the views of forest-dependent communities and forest owners about climate change and their readiness to introduce changes in their forest management to foster adaptation of forest ecosystems to future climate conditions, especially in North America (Grotta et al. 2013;Hajjar et al. 2014;Lenart and Jones 2014;Rodriguez-Franco and Haan 2015) and Europe (Williamson et al. 2005;Blennow and Persson 2009;Blennow et al. 2012;Lawrence and Marzano 2013). Despite a different level of awareness about climate change between the two regions, some general findings emerge from the existing literature. ...
... Personal belief in climate change and a personal experience of its effects appear to be critical factors that stimulate adoption of adaptive measures in forest management Williamson et al. 2005). Forest owners, managers and forestry professionals seemed not inclined to make significant changes to their management in anticipation of climate change, but looked eager to learn more about ways this could affect their forests (Grotta et al. 2013) and understand better the benefits to be derived from active management (Lenart and Jones (2014). In some cases, other threats, such as pests and diseases, were felt as more pressing than climate change (Lawrence and Marzano 2013); in other cases, lack of financial support (Laakkonen et al. 2017) or lack of information and knowledge were presented as main disincentives and constraints (Sousa-Silva et al. 2016. ...
Full-text available
Managing genetic diversity is of key importance in fostering resilience of forest ecosystems to climate change. We carried out a survey reaching over 200 forest owners and managers from 15 European countries to understand their perceptions of the main threats to forest ecosystems, their knowledge of forest genetic resources (FGR) and their attitude toward actively managing these resources to strengthen the resilience of forest ecosystems to climate change. Respondents perceived pests and diseases to be the top-ranking threats to forests, followed by windstorms and drought, with differences across countries. They stated to be aware of the potential offered by managing FGR and indicated that they paid attention to origin and quality in their choice of planting material. Generally, respondents showed a positive attitude in using forest reproductive material foreign to the planting site, to better match the projected future climate conditions, introducing either a new native tree species or a new non-local genotype of a species already planted (keeping the same species but changing the source of planting material). However, forest reproductive material from local sources was largely preferred over non-local material (both genetically improved and not improved). Forest managers and owners may need to be exposed to more evidence of the potential benefits deriving from active adaptation and mitigation management of FGR before implementing adaptive measures. Also, more efforts should be invested in understanding perceptions and motivations of European forest owners and managers, in order to better tailor advice on optimal measures to counteract the detrimental effects of climate change.
... prices now capitalizing future climate change (Severen et al., 2018), survey evidence of forest landowners in our study region finds that landowners did not account for climate forecasts in making management decisions during the time frame of our study (Grotta et al., 2013). If the climate changes gradually, then reactive and forward-looking (anticipatory) adaptation are likely to lead to similar outcomes (Massetti and Mendelsohn, 2018). ...
Full-text available
This study develops a method to estimate the welfare impacts of climate change on landowners using a discrete-choice econometric model of land management. We apply the method to forest management in the Pacific states of the U.S. and estimate welfare effects on the region that holds the largest current commercial value – western Oregon and Washington. We find evidence that a warmer and drier climate will induce an approximate 39% loss in the economic value of timberland by 2050, though there is heterogeneity across space. The discrete-choice approach allows us to determine that the welfare losses are primarily driven by estimated losses to Douglas-fir, the most commercially valuable species. An alternative approach to welfare analysis from climate change is the Ricardian method, which gives conceptually similar estimates to the discrete-choice method. While we find similar empirical findings between the discrete-choice and Ricardian approaches, the discrete-choice approach provides more heterogeneity and somewhat larger negative welfare impacts. Our analysis is notable for providing the first empirical evidence that climate change can induce welfare losses to timberland owners, even while accounting for optimal adaptation.
... How do current landowners extensive margin adaptation in forestry assume that landowners anticipate future climate and preemptively adjust the types of trees they grow. However, a study of family foresters in the northwestern U.S. found little evidence that landowners are making management decisions in response to climate change forecasts(Grotta et al. 2013). And using repeated plot-level data from the FIA database, we calculate minimal recently observed switching of forest types since 2001 ...
... Thus, our assumption for adaptation is that landowners react to climate rather than anticipate climate change. While there has been some evidence in support of agricultural land prices now capitalizing future climate change (Severen et al., 2018), survey evidence of forest landowners in our study region finds that landowners did not account for climate forecasts in making management decisions during the time frame of our study (Grotta et al., 2013). If the climate changes gradually, then reactive and anticipatory adaptation are likely to lead to similar outcomes (Massetti and Mendelsohn, 2018). ...
... Latta et al. 2010 Guo and Costello's (2013) numerical analysis of extensive margin adaptation in forestry assume that landowners anticipate future climate and preemptively adjust the types of trees they grow. However, a study of family foresters in the northwestern U.S. found little evidence that landowners are making management decisions in response to climate change forecasts (Grotta et al. 2013). And using repeated plot-level data from the FIA database, we calculate minimal recently observed switching of forest types since 2001 that involve the most commonly planted species of loblolly pine and Douglas-fir. ...
Full-text available
This study estimates an econometric Ricardian model of the effects of climate on forestry using a novel national dataset of county-level net economic returns to forestland. Results show that climate change projections to 2050 will increase forest net returns on the middle latitudes of eastern U.S. timberland. We quantify the value of extensive margin adaptation to climate change by separately estimating climate's impact on 11 distinct forest types. We find that approximately 69% of the positive climate change impact on eastern U.S. forestry arises from the value of extensive margin adaptation. Climate change impacts in the western U.S. are inconclusive. JEL classification: Q23, Q51, Q54, Q57
According to feminist political ecology, women are uniquely and disproportionately affected by forest loss in many low- or middle-income countries (LMICs) because of gender divisions with regard to labor, land access, and forest resources. However, most macro-comparative theories of development (including economic dependency, ecological modernization, treadmill of production, world society, and neo-Malthusian theories) tend to ignore gender. We draw on ideas from feminist political ecology to examine how gender-focused bilateral aid in the environmental sector impacts forest loss from 2001 to 2015. To do so, we analyze data for 79 LMICs using ordinary least squares regression. We find that more gender-focused bilateral aid in the environmental sector is related to less forest loss. We also find support for economic dependency theory (more agricultural and forestry exports are related to more forest loss) and neo-Malthusian theory (more population growth is related to more forest loss). The main finding on bilateral financing supports the idea that gender should receive more attention in cross-national research, especially the integration of gender-related measures into analyses to refine and expand conventional macro-theories of development.
Mountain ecosystems are considered vulnerable to early impacts of climate change. Whether and how local residents of these areas perceive these changes, however, remain under-studied questions. By conducting a household survey in the Khumbu region of Nepal, this study assessed local residents' experience-based perception of changes in climate trends and patterns, perceived risk, and attitudes towards climate issues. Multivariate cluster analysis based on residents' climate change beliefs revealed three segments: "Cautious," "Disengaged," and "Alarmed." A comparison of these segments along key psychosocial constructs of Protection Motivation Theory (PMT) revealed significant inter-segment differences in residents' perception of severity, vulnerability, response efficacy, self-efficacy, and response cost associated with engaging in mitigating behavior. Results shed light on how residents of high elevation areas that are considered to be exposed to early impacts of climate change perceive the risk and intend to respond. These findings could also assist stakeholders working in other similar mountain ecosystems in understanding vulnerability and in working towards climate readiness.
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This guidebook contains science-based principles, processes, and tools necessary to assist with developing adaptation options for national forest lands. The adaptation process is based on partnerships between local resource managers and scientists who work collaboratively to understand potential climate change effects, identify important resource issues, and develop management options that can capitalize on new opportunities and reduce deleterious effects. Because management objectives and sensitivity of resources to climate change differ among national forests, appropriate processes and tools for developing adaptation options may also differ. Regardless of specific processes and tools, the following steps are recommended: (1) become aware of basic climate change science and integrate that understanding with knowledge of local resource conditions and issues (review), (2) evaluate sensitivity of specific natural resources to climate change (rank), (3) develop and implement strategic and tactical options for adapting resources to climate change (resolve), and (4) monitor the effectiveness of adaptation options (observe) and adjust management as needed. Results of recent case studies on adaptation in national forests and national parks can facilitate integration of climate change in resource management and planning and make the adaptation process more efficient. Adaptation to climate change will be successful only if it can be fully implemented in established planning processes and other operational aspects of national forest management.
Full-text available
For this study we wanted to identify the meanings (shared and contested) that family forest landowners in rural western Washington assigned to their properties in the context of a rapidly urbanizing environment. Two categories of family forest landowners emerged with respect to the acceptance of the proposed growth management plan and corresponded to the degree of attachments the interviewees exhibited regarding where they lived and in how they described themselves with respect to the community and a dispute regarding the plan. For the long-term residents, their attachment to place provides the foundation for their ties to family and tradition. Although the newcomers interviewed expressed emotional attachments to the area, their attachments were not necessarily tied to their identity, or within any historical context. For the newcomers, involvement in local land-use planning may serve to reinforce the significance of the attachments they developed to their adopted home and strengthen their desire that the area remain pristine.
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Computer models generate projections of future climatic conditions that lie at the crux of climate change science and policy, and are increasingly used by decision-makers. Yet their complexity and politicization can hinder the communication of their science, uses and limitations. Little information on climate models has appeared in US newspapers over more than a decade. Indeed, we show it is declining relative to climate change. When models do appear, it is often within sceptic discourses. Using a media index from 2007, we find that model projections were frequently portrayed as likely to be inaccurate. Political opinion outlets provided more explanation than many news sources.
Full-text available
Following the lead of Denzin (1970), the authors used a triangulation strategy to develop a framework for assessing the condition of harvested nonindustrial private forests (NIPFs) and information on owners’ forest management knowledge, intentions, and objectives. The purpose of this procedure was the development of protocols to guide field investigators in their conduct of NIPF owner interviews and site evaluations. Two of the three methods, mail surveys and focus groups, provided initial insights into the forest stewardship statements of NIPF owners. Using data drawn from these procedures, the authors used a delphi process to develop specific criteria and standards for use in field application. The development and application of the resulting forest stewardship metric provide important insights into understudied areas of forestland ownership.
Nonindustrial Private Forest Owners and Ecosystem Management Journal of Forestry.
Following a survey of forest homeowners in rural Michigan to assess the value of reducing the risk of damage from wildfires at the wildland-urban interface, focus group discussions were conducted with a subset of survey participants to learn about their perceptions concerning specific components of fire hazard (e.g., how fires start, fire control, fire damage), their understanding of how fire protection responsibility is allocated between government and individuals, and their under standing of and preferences for alternative fire management strategies. Focus-group data were analyzed using a framework based on behavioral economics and psychometric models of risk. Attributes associated with the fire risk help explain the relative popularity of different fire protection strategies. Because participants consider forest fires inherently uncontrollable, and the resulting damage essentially random, they are only weakly supportive of investments in firefighting infrastructure, unlikely to take all possible steps to safeguard their own properties, and resolute in their emphasis on solutions that reduce the number of fire ignitions. Their universally negative perceptions of prescribed fire may ultimately preclude its use as a risk management tool in Michigan's wildland-urban interface forests.
The research reported here examines the relationship between risk perceptions and willingness to address climate change. The data are a national sample of 1,225 mail surveys that include measures of risk perceptions and knowledge tied to climate change, support for voluntary and government actions to address the problem, general environmental beliefs, and demographic variables. Risk perceptions matter in predicting behavior intentions. Risk perceptions are not a surrogate for general environmental beliefs, but have their own power to account for behavioral intentions. There are four secondary conclusions. First, behavioral intentions regarding climate change are complex and intriguing. People are neither nonbelievers who will take no initiatives themselves and oppose all government efforts, nor are they believers who promise both to make personal efforts and to vote for every government proposal that promises to address climate change. Second, there are separate demographic sources for voluntary actions compared with voting intentions. Third, recognizing the causes of global warming is a powerful predictor of behavioral intentions independent from believing that climate change will happen and have bad consequences. Finally, the success of the risk perception variables to account for behavioral intentions should encourage greater attention to risk perceptions as independent variables. Risk perceptions and knowledge, however, share the stage with general environmental beliefs and demographic characteristics. Although related, risk perceptions, knowledge, and general environmental beliefs are somewhat independent predictors of behavioral intentions.
Biodiversity has been called a form of ecosystem insurance. According to the "insurance hypothesis", the presence of many species protects against system decline, because built-in redundancies guarantee that some species will maintain key functions even if others fail. The hypothesis might have merit, but calling it "insurance" promotes an ambiguous understanding of risk management strategies and underlying theories of risk. Instead, such redundancy suggests a strategy of diversification. A clearer understanding of risk includes comprehending the important distinction between risk assessment and risk management, acknowledging the existence of undiversifiable risk, and recognizing that risk and uncertainty are not synonymous. A better grasp of risk management will help anyone interested in assessing the merits of different biodiversity conservation strategies. At stake is the adequacy of conservation strategies for mitigating human-caused biodiversity losses.