Over 35 and 55 million hectares of forest are managed by the provincial governments of Alberta and British Columbia respectively. Management of these forests is controlled by provincial legislation and policy. Public perceptions and values can influence whether or not people support or reject policy and management decisions. The success or failure of policy is partially dependent on support from the public and leaders. As such it is important to understand the general public’s and community leaders’ perceptions of potential management strategies. As the goal of AdapTree is policy recommendations, we conducted an internet survey of these two groups in both BC and Alberta.
We worked with a sample that is representative of the general public. This included making sure we engaged a representative proportion of participants from urban centres and rural communities. We also invited elected officials and senior staff from forestry-dependent communities to participate. Potential participants were emailed links to a survey. While the general public were asked to share their own views, community leaders were asked to make choices they believed reflected their constituent’s views.
We asked participants to rate their (or their constituent’s) level of acceptance of forest management strategies aimed at helping forests adapt to climate change. Management strategies varied in levels of human and technological intervention. These ranged from less intense techniques such as natural regeneration to more extreme methods including assisted migration and genetic engineering. We also examined whether or not respondents would accept a previously rejected management strategy if it led to desirable outcomes or they discovered that it was the way forests are currently managed. We included an open comments section so input could be provided but it was not required. Feedback was compiled and compared across geographic boundaries, demographic groups and between community leaders and the general public.
Looking at people’s level of acceptance of management strategies allows us to predict potential reactions to policy implementation. This will provide insight into policy changes that could be difficult for the provincial governments to put into effect. It also provides potential solutions. For example if the general public and community leaders are willing to accept a strategy based on evidence that it would lead to positive outcomes, they may be willing to support policy recommendations based on the results of genomics research. This would mean that potential barriers to implementation may be negotiable with effective communication of the results of our research to the public in general, stakeholders and policy makers.
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