The University of Arizona

Public Perceptions of Sagebrush Ecosystem Management in the Great Basin

Bruce Shindler, Ryan Gordon, Mark W. Brunson


Intact sagebrush communities in the Great Basin are rapidly disappearing because of invasion of nonnative plants, large wildfires, and encroachment of pinyon and juniper woodlands. Land management options, including the use of prescribed fire, grazing, herbicides, or mechanical treatments, can reduce the potential for wildfire and restore plant communities. Public acceptance of management actions, and trust in agencies to carry out those actions, is a critical component of developing and implementing successful long-term land management plans. This study examines citizens’ opinions and perceptions about rangeland management in the Great Basin. In fall 2006 we conducted a mail survey of randomly selected households in three urban and three rural regions of the Great Basin, receiving 1 345 valid responses for a 45% response rate. Overall, respondents perceived that the environment is moderately healthy; however, they do recognize threats to sagebrush ecosystems. Public acceptance is relatively high for the use of prescribed fire, grazing, felling woodland trees, and mowing shrubs, but low for herbicide treatment and chaining. Although respondents indicated high levels of acceptance for some management actions, they expressed relatively low levels of trust in land management agencies to implement these actions.

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