Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Mark W Brunson


Mark W Brunson


Fee Busby


Chris A. Call


In the past two centuries, woody plant species have increased in density and extent throughout the rangelands of North America. This encroachment generally has undesirable effects on hydrological function, forest resources, and plant community composition. Encroachment of Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) and ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) into sagebrush communities is occurring in the Northern Rocky Mountain region. Removal and restoration treatments are often proposed to manage this issue, mainly prescribed fire, mechanical destruction, and/or herbicide use. Several contextual factors may affect public level of acceptability for such treatments. The issue frames used to present this problem to the public may have an effect on levels of acceptability for such treatments. We established and tested several hypotheses concerning contextual factors thought to influence acceptability judgments and attitudes. A mail survey was sent to households in selected counties of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and South Dakota. Confidence in managers, type of restoration technique or conifer removal treatment, perceived cause of encroachment, and the visual qualities of treated landscape scenes affected judgments made concerning treatments. Geographic region was not found to be a significant factor influencing acceptability levels in our study area. The frame had little effect on acceptability of the issue presented in the survey. The terms used as frames may have been too scientific to be salient to our respondents. Respondents from relatively urban Lewis and Clark County, Montana, did not differ significantly in their levels of acceptance for different proposed treatments from residents of the more rural Montana counties of Fergus and Jefferson where such treatments have already been implemented. Counties differed significantly on certain survey items describing extractive activities and the effects of treatments. Understanding the effects of contextual factors on acceptability levels can help land managers and researchers better understand the public they have been hired to serve.



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