You are here

Harvard Forest Data Archive

HF173

Role of Personal Connections in Shaping Decisions About Private Forest Use in Central Massachusetts 2008

Related Publications

Data

Overview

  • Lead: David Kittredge, Mark Rickenbach
  • Investigators:
  • Contact: David Kittredge
  • Start date: 2008
  • End date: 2008
  • Status: completed
  • Location: Central Massachusetts
  • Latitude: +42.30162 to +42.72851
  • Longitude: -71.92306 to -72.47918
  • Elevation: 50 to 400 meter
  • Taxa: Homo sapiens (human)
  • Release date: 2011
  • Revisions:
  • EML file: knb-lter-hfr.173.8
  • DOI: digital object identifier
  • Related links:
  • Study type: short-term measurement
  • Research topic: conservation and management
  • LTER core area: disturbance
  • Keywords: conservation, humans, management, timber harvest
  • Abstract:

    We begin with a simple premise: Social and ecological systems are interconnected in complex ways. Forests are, perhaps, one of the most intriguing examples of this interconnectedness--particularly those in private ownerships. Forested landscapes are essential in maintaining human systems through the provision of multiple ecosystem services that span public (e.g., clean water, nutrient cycling) and private (e.g., fiber, maple syrup, home sites) goods. However, the majority of forestland in the Eastern United States is a mosaic of small landholdings (less than 20 ha) where property management is largely uncoordinated. On such landscapes, decentralized, ownership-centric decision-making defines the mix of ecosystem services provided and the landscape patterns present now and in the future. While somewhat effective for less spatially sensitive ecosystem services (e.g., fiber production), this ownership-centric approach is ill suited to spatially sensitive ones (e.g., water quality) and may, in some cases, be detrimental to them (e.g., habitat fragmentation). Improving the ecological and landscape sensitivity of private forest conservation and management is a major challenge facing researchers, practitioners, and policymakers in sustaining forest ecosystems.

    Central to unraveling this challenge is a fundamental understanding of how landowners simultaneously fit within their social and bio-physical landscapes. Despite their importance to broader forest sustainability, our collectively understanding of forest landowners has been primarily concerned with individual landowners and/or individual properties. For example, most research surrounding private forest landowners centers on primarily agent-based theories of behavior or decision-making (e.g., rational actor, theory of planned behavior). This perspective is useful in predicting and effecting behavior at broad scales, but lacks the specificity needed to address local landscape concerns and/or opportunities. Other studies have begun to unpack the social and ecological connections at landscape scales to provide useful insights and suggestions, but often take case study and/or qualitative approaches and do not adequately separate confounding contextual drivers (e.g., threat of regulation) that make application to other settings with different contexts difficult.

    The purpose of this exploratory study is to formally investigate the social networks of private landowners and the connection of those networks to the bio-physical landscape. Our work will specifically consider the networks of information sources and the specific role played by resource professionals in key land management decisions (i.e., harvest timber from, place conservation easement on the land) that can fundamentally alter/preserve landscape patterns. Our specific objective is to characterize and compare the egocentric networks that inform landowner decision-making related to two land management decisions, and assess relative satisfaction with the outcomes of those decisions.

    Landowners can acquire (directly or indirectly, through publications or other media) information about forests from "experts", "peers", or a combination of both. Experts would include those with professional training (e.g., foresters, ecologists, land trust staff, etc.,) or equivalent experience (e.g., loggers). In many cases, landowners may pay experts to carry out portions of the forest management practice. However, experts are not always directly employed by the landowner, but are instead employed by others to work with them (e.g., foresters employed by public agencies or sawmills, land trust staff). Peers usually do not have equivalent training, but may (or may not) be knowledgeable on aspects salient to the decision. Experts and peers are important sources of information in decision-making and this is true in the private landowner context (see e.g., Sisock 2007; West et al 1988).

    In evaluating experts and peers, past research has shown that decision-makers may consider and weigh several dimensions of the source including expertise, homophily, accessibility, information quality, trust, and cost (e.g., Borgatti and Cross 2003; Rogers 2003; Cross and Sproul 2004; Levin and Cross 2004). With experts, additional concerns may arise from oversight challenges described in agency theory due to asymmetric information and/or misaligned objectives (e.g., Eisenhardt 1989). Recent studies (e.g., Rickenbach et al 2005; Gass et al, In review) indicate that landowners face some agency concerns in dealing with professional foresters. And, some perspectives perceive that landowners "underutilize" experts in decision-making regarding their property (Butler and Leatherberry 2004).

  • Methods:

    Finding People

    In order to develop a list of people that had timber harvested from their land in the last (2) years, the state Forest Practice Act (Massachusetts General Laws chapter 132) approved Forest Cutting Plans for 18 towns in the North Quabbin study area were accessed. Those towns were Athol, Orange, New Salem, Petersham, Royalston, Phillipston, Montague, Northfield, Hubbardston, Shutesbury, Erving, Templeton, Winchendon, Wendell, Warwick, Hardwick, Barre and Pelham. For each name of a woodland owner, an address and phone number were found, using the phone book or websites such as anywho.com. To get a list of people who had recently done conservation restrictions, we accessed the registry of deeds online for the counties in which the towns of interest fell. As with the timber sale subjects, the addresses and phone numbers were found. Next, using a random sequence generator, we chose 20 people from each list to send letters to in the first wave. If the person selected did not have an address, we moved on to the next person in the sequence, until we had 20 people. We then sent out a letter to the selected people explaining our project. After about three days, we contacted the people by phone and, if they were interested, scheduled an interview time with them. If we did not have a phone number for them, we sent the letter regardless, with the hope that perhaps they would contact us. If the person was known to be a forester or logger, they were not contacted.

    In soliciting participation, 47 letters were originally sent to people that have completed a conservation restriction and 75 to people that have done a timber sale on their land. We phoned 35 people from the CR list, and 55 people from the timber sale list. If we did not have their phone number, we did not call them. If we had an address and no phone number, we still sent a letter.

    Interviews

    The interviews generally took about 30 minutes. One person would ask the questions, while the other recorded the answers. After the interview, the interviewee was assigned a number, and thus when their data were entered into the computer, it was referred to solely by that number thereby ensuring anonymity of each interview subject. The worksheet with the names and corresponding numbers was kept separate from the data. If we interviewed a couple, the procedure changed slightly. Their answers were recorded separately, either on separate scripts or using different notations. Generally, they brainstormed a list of alters (i.e., contacts in the social network) together. Then, if many of their answers had been different, they filled out the contact response forms separately. If however, most of their answers had been the same or agreed upon, they filled out the contact response forms jointly. When the data were entered, couples were entered with the same identification number, distinguished with a letter, for example, 7a and 7b. If the interviewee was unwilling to provide alters or fill out contact response forms, yet it was evident that alters did exist, the interview data were discarded. If the timber sale or CR had not actually been completed, the interview was also discarded. We used NA when there was no data for that question.

    Interviews elicited data on information sources through a series of "name generator" questions being sensitive to the potential pitfalls of this technique (Marsden 2005). Interview participants were given a blank piece of paper and asked to write down the names of people who might have a relationship to them in the context of their woodlands, and were prompted with these questions: Who do you talk to about your land? Who do you get information or help from? Did anyone talk to you about your land? Was there anyone that was involved in or influenced the decision or process of the timber sale/easement? Did you talk to anyone or did anyone talk to you about the timber sale/easement? Participants were then asked to indicate on their list of people those that were either involved in the timber sale / easement, assisted them with an understanding of completing the timber sale/easement, or otherwise influenced how they approached the timber sale/easement; hereafter termed "influentials". It was stressed that involvement may not be limited to knowledge or actual effort. It could reflect someone’s “moral support” or assistance in helping them "think through" the process. It could also be technical advice from a resource professional, or an important suggestion they received from a neighbor or a friend. As part of the interview process, participants quantitatively evaluated each influential's expertise, similarity of opinions and attitudes, contribution to the decision, and other basic background information (e.g., peer/expert status, how they were acquainted, where they live/work). Interviewees were also asked to provide an overall assessment of the particular decision (e.g., positive/negative outcome, fit with expectations) and basic personal demographic information.

  • Use:

    This dataset is released to the public under Creative Commons license CC BY (Attribution). Please keep the designated contact person informed of any plans to use the dataset. Consultation or collaboration with the original investigators is strongly encouraged. Publications and data products that make use of the dataset must include proper acknowledgement.

  • Citation:

    Kittredge D, Rickenbach M. 2011. Role of Personal Connections in Shaping Decisions About Private Forest Use in Central Massachusetts 2008. Harvard Forest Data Archive: HF173.

Detailed Metadata

hf173-01: easement interview

  1. code: code
  2. gender: gender
    • 1: female
    • 2: male
  3. year.land: what year did you acquire your land?
  4. acquire: how did you acquire your land?
    • 1: inherit
    • 2: purchase
    • 3: other
  5. acres: how many acres? (unit: acre / missing value: NA)
  6. acres.cr: number of acres on the CR (unit: acre / missing value: NA)
  7. current.home.site: reason for owning land: current home site
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
    • NA: NA
  8. income: reason for owning land: income
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
    • NA: NA
  9. recreation: reason for owning land: recreation
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
    • NA: NA
  10. legacy: reason for owning land: legacy
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
    • NA: NA
  11. protect.wildlife: reason for owning land: protect wildlife
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
    • NA: NA
  12. protect.enviro: reason for owning land: protect environment
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
    • NA: NA
  13. enjoy.scenery: reason for owning land: enjoy scenery
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
    • NA: NA
  14. other: reason for owning land:
  15. birth.year: birth year
  16. distance: how far from land/harvest do you live
    • 1: on or beside
    • 2: 0-10 miles away
    • 3: 11-25 miles away
    • 4: 26-50 miles away
    • 5: 51-100 miles away
    • 6: more than 100 miles away
  17. time.land: how often do you spend time in your woodlands?
    • 1: once or more/week
    • 2: once or twice/month
    • 3: once or twice/3 months
    • 4: once or twice/year
    • 5: less than once/year
  18. school: highest level of schooling
    • 1: grade 11 or less
    • 2: diploma or GED
    • 3: some college
    • 4: college grad
    • 5: grad or professional school
  19. income.2007: total household income in 2007
    • 1: less than 25K
    • 2: 25k-49999
    • 3: 50k-74999
    • 4: 75k-99999
    • 5: 100k-149999
    • 6: 150k or more
  20. profession: what is/was primary profession
  21. retired: retired?
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  22. circumstances: circumstances
  23. management.plan: was there a written management plan at time of sale?
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
    • 3: don't know
  24. financially: rate easement outcome: financially (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  25. ecologically: rate easement outcome: ecologically (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  26. effort: rate easement outcome: effort (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  27. recommend: rate easement outcome: recommend (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  28. overall: rate easement outcome: overall (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  29. difficulty: describe the process: difficulty (range -3 to 3, where -3 is difficult and 3 is easy)
  30. negative: describe the process: negative (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  31. over.again: over again?
    • 1: exactly the same
    • 2: mostly the same
    • 3: differently (explanation)
    • 4: not again (explanation)
  32. alters: number of alters (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  33. vip: number of VIPs (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  34. dummy: VIP professionals
    • 1: all professionals
    • 2: professionals and other (friend, neighbor, family..)

hf173-02: easement interview influentials

  1. code: code
  2. related: related to
  3. expertise: contribution to decision: expertise (range -3 to 3, where -3 is low and 3 is high)
  4. trust: contribution to decision: trust (range -3 to 3, where -3 is untrustworthy and 3 is trustworthy)
  5. accessibility: contribution to decision: accessibility (range -3 to 3, where -3 is difficult and 3 is easy)
  6. info.quality: contribution to decision: info quality (range -3 to 3, where -3 is useless and 3 is useful)
  7. overall: contribution to decision: overall (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  8. similarity: similarity (range -3 to 3, where -3 is dissimilar and 3 is similar)
  9. payment: payment
    • 1: yas
    • 2: no
  10. relative: relative
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  11. close.friend: close friend
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  12. frequency: frequency of contact
    • 1: once or more/week
    • 2: once or twice/month
    • 3: once or twice/ 3 months
    • 4: once or twice/year
    • 5: less than once/year
    • 6: contact only during process
  13. own.forestland: own forestland
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  14. neighbor: neighbor
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  15. local: local
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  16. forester: forester
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  17. logger: logger
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  18. role.easement: role in easement

hf173-03: timber sale interview

  1. code: code
  2. gender: gender
    • 1: female
    • 2: male
  3. year.land: what year did you acquire your land?
  4. acquire: how did you acquire your land?
    • 1: inherit
    • 2: purchase
    • 3: other
  5. acres: how many acres? (unit: acre / missing value: NA)
  6. harvest.acres: how many acres is on the TS? (unit: acre / missing value: NA)
  7. current.home.site: reasons for owning land: current home site
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
  8. income: reasons for owning land: income
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
  9. recreation: reasons for owning land: recreation
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
  10. legacy: reasons for owning land: legacy
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
  11. protect.wildlife: reasons for owning land: protect wildlife
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
  12. protect.enviro: reasons for owning land: protect environment
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
  13. enjoy.scenery: reasons for owning land: enjoy scenery
    • 0: not at all important
    • 1: somewhat important
    • 2: very important
    • 3: extremely important
  14. other: reasons for owning land: other
  15. birth.year: what year were you born?
  16. distance: how far from land/harvest do you live?
    • 1: on or beside
    • 2: 0-10 miles away
    • 3: 11-25 miles away
    • 4: 26-50 miles away
    • 5: 51-100 miles away
    • 6: more than 100 miles away
  17. time.land: how often do you spend time in your woodlands?
    • 1: once or more/week
    • 2: once or twice/month
    • 3: once or twice/3 months
    • 4: once or twice/year
    • 5: less than once/year
  18. school: highest level of schooling?
    • 1: grade 11 or less
    • 2: diploma or GED
    • 3: some college
    • 4: college grad
    • 5: grad or professional school
  19. income.2007: total household income in 2007?
    • 1: less than 25K
    • 2: 25k-49999
    • 3: 50k-74999
    • 4: 75k-99999
    • 5: 100k-149999
    • 6: 150k or more
  20. profession: what is/was primary profession?
  21. retired: retired?
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  22. circumstances: circumstances
  23. management.plan: was there a written management plan at time of sale?
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
    • 3: I don't know
  24. timber.sale.contract: was there a written signed timber sale contract?
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  25. timber.sale.before: have you had a harvest before this one?
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  26. contract.signed: who signed the timber sale contract?
    • 1: 1
    • NA: NA
  27. financially: rate timber sale outcome: financially (range: -3 to 3. where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  28. ecologically: rate timber sale outcome: ecologically (range: -3 to 3. where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  29. effort: rate timber sale outcome: effort (range: -3 to 3. where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  30. recommend: rate timber sale outcome: recommend (range: -3 to 3. where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  31. overall: rate timber sale outcome: overall (range: -3 to 3. where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  32. difficulty: describe the process: difficulty (range: -3 to 3. where -3 is difficult and 3 is easy)
  33. negative: describe the process: negative (range: -3 to 3. where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  34. over.again: over again
    • 1: exactly the same
    • 2: mostly the same
    • 3: differently (explanation)
    • 4: not again (explanation)
  35. alters: number of alters (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  36. vip: number of VIPs (unit: number / missing value: NA)
  37. dummy: VIP professionals
    • 1: all professionals
    • 2: professionals and other (friend, neighbor, family..)

hf173-04: timber sale influentials

  1. code: code
  2. related: related to
  3. expertise: contribution to decision: expertise (range -3 to 3, where -3 is low and 3 is high)
  4. trust: contribution to decision: trust (range -3 to 3, where -3 is untrustworthy and 3 is trustworthy)
  5. accessibility: contribution to decision: accessibility (range -3 to 3, where -3 is difficult and 3 is easy)
  6. info.quality: contribution to decision: info quality (range -3 to 3, where -3 is useless and 3 is useful)
  7. overall: contribution to decision: overall (range -3 to 3, where -3 is negative and 3 is positive)
  8. similarity: similarity (range -3 to 3, where -3 is dissimilar and 3 is similar)
  9. payment: payment
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  10. relative: relative
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  11. close.friend: close friend
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  12. frequency: frequency of contact
    • 1: once or more/week
    • 2: once or twice/month
    • 3: once or twice/ 3 months
    • 4: once or twice/year
    • 5: less than once/year
    • 6: contact only during process
  13. own.forestland: own forestland
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  14. neighbor: neighbor
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  15. local: local
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  16. forester: forester
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  17. logger: logger
    • 1: yes
    • 2: no
  18. role.easement: role in TS

hf173-05: easement interview narrative notes

  • Compression:
  • Format: text file
  • Type: text file

hf173-06: easement interview script

  • Compression:
  • Format: pdf
  • Type: pdf

hf173-07: timber sale interview narrative notes

  • Compression:
  • Format: text file
  • Type: text file

hf173-08: timber sale interview script

  • Compression:
  • Format: pdf
  • Type: pdf