Landowner Perceptions of Protecting and Establishing Riparian Forests: A Qualitative Analysis

Publication Year: 
Daniel D. Dutcher, James C. Finley, A. E. Luloff, and J. Johnson

Findings from the study suggest:

  • Landowners need to view restoring and caring for riparian areas on their land as an action they can take and have a responsibility to take, similar to recycling.
  • An effective approach will "emphasize the role of riparian forests, respect concerns and dignity of individual landowners, and use credible advisors who understand landowner needs."
  • Easily available and easy-to-understand information and assistance are critical
  • Addressing flooding concerns and economic concerns is key

While the ecological importance of riparian forests is widely recognized, identifying the best policies for reforesting privately owned stream lands also requires an understanding of societal perceptions. Forty semi-structured interviews with riparian landowners in central Pennsylvania revealed a study population driven by competing considerations. On one hand, these landowners expressed a community obligation to consider the downstream consequences of their management styles. On the other, they often failed to appreciate their own contributions to water pollution and were reluctant to abandon the ordered landscapes to which they were accustomed. Possible implications of these findings are advanced.