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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2017

  • Title: Stakeholder perspectives on the future of New England’s Landscape
  • Primary Author: Marissa McBride (Harvard Forest)
  • Additional Authors: Matthew Duveneck (Harvard Forest); Kathy Fallon Lambert (Harvard Forest); Kathleen Theoharides (Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs); Jonathan Thompson (Harvard Forest)
  • Abstract:

    New England is a predominately-forested landscape, where 80% of the forest is privately owned, and patterns of land-use change are the result of diverse landowners acting individually in response to shifting socio-economic conditions. We conducted structured phone interviews with a range of local stakeholders (n = 57) to elicit their perspectives regarding future landscape change in the region. The interviews used open-ended questions structured around a narrative framework to elicit perceptions of the changes taking place, the drivers and impacts of these changes, and their visions for the future. Responses were analysed using qualitative content analysis and coded in terms of perceived challenges and opportunities for promoting sustainable land-use trajectories amidst conflicting priorities. Respondents viewed the lack of funding and government support, increased development pressures, changing demographics of landowners, and the difficulty of accounting for aggregate impacts in a dispersed planning context to be central challenges for promoting sustainable land use. Thematic analysis revealed the potential loss of character for rural New England as underlying many of the stakeholders’ problem frames, with increased fragmentation and poorly planned development seen as having a disproportionate impact on sense of place, and the potential to exacerbate the negative impacts of other drivers such as climate change. Perceived opportunities for promoting sustainable futures included improving the liveability of urban areas and quality of urban ecological spaces in order to drive more compact form of development, and realigning the monetary incentives available for forested landowners to recognize the collective benefits that they provide.

  • Research Category: Conservation and Management