Public and forest landowner attitudes towards longleaf pine ecosystem restoration using prescribed fire
Once dominant across the United States (US) Southeastern Coastal Plain, the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris Mill.) ecosystem covers a fraction of its historic geographic range. Restoration efforts have largely occurred on public lands, while most private forests feature alternative pine species. A better understanding of public interest in ecological restoration is critical to sustained efforts and successes. This research examines both forest landowner and general public interest in longleaf pine restoration. Results contribute to research on the social dimensions of ecological restoration, much of which has focused on small-scale projects rather than landscape-scale initiatives. In addition, this study addresses the lack of knowledge regarding factors driving attitudes towards ecological restoration other than demographic and psychometric variables. We employed a telephone survey of 2700 participants across eight states in the southeastern US in the historical range of longleaf pine. A majority of respondents supported restoration as a general goal and were supportive of the use of prescribed fire as a restoration practice. Place attachment, knowledge about longleaf pine, and age were among the significant predictors of restoration support. Findings have implications for future research focusing on sociocultural influences of restoration projects, as well as expanded public support for restoration of fire-maintained ecosystems.