Analyzing Landowner Demand for Wildlife and Forest Management Information

Article excerpt

Determining appropriate topics and target audiences is essential to design effective educational outreach programs. Based on landowner responses to a mail survey, we determined both the importance and the availability of wildlife and forest management information topics to Mississippi landowners. Combining this information clearly identified the appropriate subject matter for outreach programs-topics important to landowners and for which information was relatively unavailable. The importance of wildlife and forest management information relative to its availability depended on the region, land use patterns, and landowner characteristics, thus demonstrating which segments of the population should be targeted to maximize program impact.

Key Words: complementary log-log link, landowner information needs, odds ratio, ordinal regression, outreach program budget

JEL Classifications: C25, Q16, Q23, Q26

Landowner demand for wildlife and forest management information derives from the potential contribution of this information to their land management objectives. The relative importance of various types of wildlife and forest management information can, however, change for a variety of reasons, such as landowner capacity to absorb information, production technology, and/or market dynamics (Feather and Amacher; Just et al.; Lichtenberg and Zimmerman). Consequently, landowner interest in wildlife and forest management information can be expected to change accordingly. Current research on the state of public wildlife and forest management education programs, however, seems to be disproportionately focused on the supply rather than demand side issues of wildlife and forest management information. Commenting on the state of forestry extension education in Mississippi, for instance, Londo noted that a vast majority of the state landowners did not have enough knowledge of conservation programs even though such information is freely available from the forestry and wildlife extension service. Bensel reported that in northwestern Pennsylvania the term "forest certification" meant something different to various landowners and that some already believe they are certified because of their participation in otherwise similar programs that tout sustainability. Measells et al. found that few landowners benefit from available forestry educational programs. In the face of scare public funds, the results of these studies actually raise questions about (1) the amount and composition of wildlife and forest management information currently supplied by forestry and wildlife extension officials, (2) landowners' understanding of the information, and (3) whether they benefit from it.

The following questions, in particular, arise. Is there a mismatch between what information landowners want and what information is provided? Have existing program services become redundant because landowners' needs have evolved? Are forestry and wildlife program managers using ineffective conveyance methods? Answers to these questions are important because limited public resources and changing information needs of nonindustrial private landowners suggest that wildlife and forest managers need to make their educational programs more relevant. In the past five years, one-third of the United States and its territories reduced overall forestry program expenditures with the remaining states making major reallocations across various program components because of budgetary constraints (National Association of State Foresters).

Subscribing to the notion that landowners are rational and would maximize the use of available information, in this paper we analyzed the potential for a mismatch between what wildlife and forest management information is available and what is needed by Mississippi landowners. In particular, we asked landowners to rank both the importance and availability of information for several wildlife and forest management topics. By analyzing their responses, we were able to identify topics that landowners deemed relatively important to their land management goals and for which information was relatively unavailable. …