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Climate change beliefs and forest management in eastern Oregon: implications for individual adaptive capacity

Angela E. Boag, Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado Boulder
Joel Hartter, Environmental Studies Program, University of Colorado Boulder; Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire
Lawrence C. Hamilton, Sociology Department, University of New Hampshire; Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire
Nils D. Christoffersen, Wallowa Resources, Enterprise, Oregon
Forrest R. Stevens, Department of Geography and Geosciences, University of Louisville
Michael W. Palace, Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire; Department of Earth Sciences, University of New Hampshire
Mark J. Ducey, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of New Hampshire; Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire


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The management decisions of private landowners affect forest structure and composition, and may impact the resilience of forested regions. In this case study we assessed barriers to both intentional and incidental climate-adaptive forest management among nonindustrial private forest owners in eastern Oregon, USA. In this context, incidental adaptations result from synergies between climate-adaptive forest management and actions motivated by goals such as wildfire mitigation, which landowners may prioritize regardless of concerns about climate change. Through semistructured interviews we used qualitative analyses to identify barriers to adaptation, including subjective (cognitive and experiential) and structural barriers (social, political, and economic) by comparing individual cases. Overall, we found that intentional climate change adaptation had low salience among participants, though a large majority of forest owners were active managers motivated by other goals, contributing to widespread incidental adaptation. We found that nonindustrial private forest owners who engaged in or considered intentional climate adaptation actions generally believed that anthropogenic climate change is occurring. Many respondents perceived local environmental change, notably reduced snowpack, but this was not associated with adaptive actions or intentions. The few participants who considered or implemented intentional climate adaptation actions generally had written forest management plans containing both forest inventories and specific management goals. Improving access to resources for forest management planning may enhance fire- and climate-smart forest management by facilitating scenario visioning and formalizing intentions. Although climate change beliefs were subjective barriers to intentional climate adaptation, many of the same structural barriers limited intentional and incidental adaptation. Place-based education, reliable funding mechanisms, and cooperative approaches among landowners may enhance adaptive capacity and promote the resilience of these nonindustrial private forestlands.

Key words

adaptive capacity; climate change; climate change adaptation; drought; forest management; private land; resilience

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087