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J Environ Manage. 2013 Jan 15;114:46-62. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.09.029. Epub 2012 Dec 3.

Clearfell controversies and alternative timber harvest designs: how acceptability perceptions vary between Tasmania and the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

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Institute for a Sustainable Environment and Department of Landscape Architecture, 5234 University of Oregon, 30 Hendricks Hall, Eugene, OR 97403, USA.


Perceptions of the acceptability of alternative "variable retention" timber harvests, that keep trees standing in harvested areas, were compared between regions beset by major forestry conflicts. Data from similar studies of similar harvest systems were compared between Oregon and Tasmania. These comparisons were related to attitudes and to differences in ecosystems, silvicultural prescriptions, forestry outcomes, aesthetics, and social-political context. Findings showed that perceptions measured in one region cannot be assumed valid in another. Substantial regional differences arose not from general sociological differences but from differences in local forestry outcomes. These largely arose from different regeneration requirements of commercial tree species and consequent differences in the design of otherwise analogous harvests. Comparisons of perceptions by people with similar attitudes yielded substantial regional differences. Those prioritizing ecological conservation were mainly influenced by habitat outcomes, and consequently preferred harvests with aggregated tree retention patterns in Tasmania but not in Oregon. People sympathetic to timber industry interests in both regions showed little association between forestry outcomes and acceptability and favoured more intensive harvests. Tasmanian harvest advocates perceived harvests that keep more standing trees as less acceptable than those in Oregon. This may be due to sampling differences or to greater risk perceptions towards new harvest designs in Tasmania. Tasmanians generally disliked clearfelling more than Oregonians, likely due to different political narratives framing these perceptions or to higher aesthetic impacts in Tasmania due to burning. Dispersed retention was perceived as more acceptable in Oregon than in Tasmania, likely because Oregon had much higher post-harvest tree densities. Regional differences in wildfire-risk and logger-safety were not strongly associated with different acceptability perceptions because these were confounded by other more influential concerns. More and better cross-regional studies of environmental perceptions are needed and would benefit from more standardized or coordinated methods.

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