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Resident perceptions of natural resources between cities and across scales in the Pacific Northwest

Anita T. Morzillo, Department of Natural Resources & the Environment, University of Connecticut
Betty J. Kreakie, US EPA Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Laboratory, Atlantic Ecology Division
Noelwah R. Netusil, Reed College, Department of Economics
J. Alan Yeakley, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Department of Geography and Environmental Systems
Connie P. Ozawa, Portland State University, Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning
Sally L. Duncan, Oregon State University, School of Public Policy


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As the global population becomes increasingly urban, research is needed to explore how local culture, land use, and policy will influence urban natural resource management. We used a broad-scale comparative approach and survey of residents within the Portland (Oregon)-Vancouver (Washington) metropolitan areas, USA, two states with similar geographical and ecological characteristics, but different approaches to land-use planning, to explore resident perceptions about natural resources at three scales of analysis: property level (“at or near my house”), neighborhood (“within a 20-minute walk from my house”), and metro level (“across the metro area”). At the metro-level scale, nonmetric multidimensional scaling revealed that the two cities were quite similar. However, affinity for particular landscape characteristics existed within each city with the greatest difference generally at the property-level scale. Portland respondents expressed affinity for large mature trees, tree-lined streets, public transportation, and proximity to stores and services. Vancouver respondents expressed affinity for plentiful accessible parking. We suggest three explanations that likely are not mutually exclusive. First, respondents are segmented based on preferences for particular amenities, such as convenience versus commuter needs. Second, historical land-use and tax policy legacies may influence individual decisions. Third, more environmentally attuned worldviews may influence an individual’s desire to produce environmentally friendly outcomes. Our findings highlight the importance of acknowledging variations in residents’ affinities for landscape characteristics across different scales and locations because these differences may influence future land-use policies about urban natural resources.

Key words

human dimensions; landscape ecology; natural resources; Pacific Northwest; perceptions; urban ecosystems

Copyright © 2016 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