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Interactions between near-urban forest management and recreation : a pre- and post-harvest survey

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Disciplines
  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Political Science

Abstract

Forest management has been influenced by many social and political changes, and one of the most prominent is the increasing urbanization of neighboring lands. As a result, forests once relatively far removed from urban areas now share boundaries with residential developments, and receive increasing pressure to provide recreation and other non-commodity values. Traditional commodity-oriented management actions impact such values, drawing criticism, misunderstanding, and media attention. The little that is known about near-urban forest users indicates that their expectations may be incompatible with traditional management practices like clearcutting. This study uses two identical successive cross-sectional surveys to examine user interactions with harvesting in McDonald Forest near Corvallis, Oregon. The harvest operation was placed in the middle of a high density recreation area, with adjacent residential development. At the time of the harvest, there was no forest management plan, and no public involvement in decision making. With circumstances like these the forest risked negative reactions to the harvesting through exposure to the media, and recreationists within the harvest units. The use of a unique "before and after" survey allowed measurement of changes in the demographics, behavior, preferences and attitudes of forest users in Peavy Tract, McDonald Forest. Results indicate that while opinions were negative toward harvesting and related management after the harvest, use levels actually increased dramatically. Factors influencing continued patronage of the harvested area appear to be linked with external and life-style factors. Among the external factors within some control of managers is publicity, which was found to be a key factor in raising awareness among the residents. Publicity appeared to be directly responsible for the unexpected 38 percent increase in use, and also appeared to have changed expectations among post-harvest users about the appropriateness of harvesting in this high density recreation setting. Several other external factors important in understanding near-urban forest recreationists were not within the control of managers. Among the most prominent were; demographics, convenience, closeness to home, lack of available substitutes and robust economic growth fueling recreation demand. Concepts of place attachment and prior use history were helpful in understanding the complex and sometimes contradictory results produced by the study. Product shift and displacement phenomena were observed among post-harvest users, but far fewer changes were found than initially expected. Repeat users were found to have different responses than newcomers, including a greater likelihood of listing logging and clearcuts as detractors. Repeat visitors were also more sensitive to other users, and other forestry operations. Newcomers were less likely to notice changes, and less likely to negatively categorize management actions. In addition to the results of the research, implications for managers of near-urban forests are discussed. The intensity and range of resource values being demanded of near-urban forests makes them microcosms of natural resource management and issues in general. As such, they may act as useful barometers in gauging the social effects of forest management actions and the effects of changes in society on forestry.

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