Family Forest Owners and Climate Change:
Understanding, Attitudes, and Educational
Amy T. Grotta, Janean H. Creighton, Christopher Schnepf, and
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 (email@example.com), Oregon State University, Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society, St. Helens, OR. Janean H.
Creighton (firstname.lastname@example.org), Oregon State University, College of Forestry, Corvallis, OR. Christopher Schnepf (email@example.com), University
of Idaho Extension, Coeur d’ Alene, ID. Sylvia Kantor (firstname.lastname@example.org), Washington State University, Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources,
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-
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-
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
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
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
Perceptions of Biophysical and Socio-
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
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
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-
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-
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-
Trust in Information Sources, Values,
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 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-
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
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
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
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