Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Lesley Bulluck, PhD


As human land uses continue to expand rapidly across the landscape, the management practices of private landowners are an essential part of effective conservation of biodiversity. Conservation of early successional habitats (ESH) and the species that depend on them is a priority in the eastern United States, and efforts to create more ESH on private lands has primarily focused on forest landowners and the harvesting of timber. Private lands with significant pasture cover in a forested landscape present an additional opportunity to create and maintain ESH, yet our understanding of landowner values and attitudes about management strategies in pastures (i.e., modifying mowing or grazing practices, use of herbicides to control invasive species) is lacking. This study implemented a survey of private landowners in five western Virginia counties who own at least 25 acres that are at or above 2000 ft elevation. This region was selected due to its high priority for declining bird species and its mix of heavily forested ridges and extensive pastureland in its valleys. Our primary objective was to understand what influences private landowner intentions to carry out seven different ESH management strategies (i.e. modified mowing, modified grazing, timber harvests within forest, timber harvests at filed-forest border, prescribed fire, use of machinery, and use of herbicides to control invasive species) for the benefit of wildlife in the next five years. General linear models (GLM) were developed to determine whether landowner values, barriers to management, perceived norms, past experience, organizational membership, and demographics predicted the intention to carry out each management strategy in the next five years. Models explained 22-49% of the variation in landowner intention and predictors of intention differed across the seven management strategies. What landowners’ value about their property significantly predicted behavioral intention but was not consistent across the different management strategies. For example, those most likely to modify mowing and grazing tend to value ecological aspects of their land (i.e., pollinator habitat and water quality) whereas those most likely to harvest timber value hunting and revenue from production on their land. Landowner’s past experience with land management was a strong predictor of likelihood to modify mowing and grazing and to harvest timber. Lastly, members of non-hunting conservation organizations are nearly 7 times more likely to modify grazing practices than non-members, and members of hunting conservation organizations were 2.6 times more likely to use prescribed fire for the benefit of wildlife. These results suggest that expanding outreach efforts to include additional management options for creating ESH (i.e., modification of mowing and grazing practices) and the inclusion of images and verbiage about the benefits to pollinator species, non-game species, and water quality would likely recruit landowners who may not have been recruited with current methods.


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