Understanding invasive plant management on family forestlands: an application of protection motivation theory.
Invasive forest plants are a growing concern because of their perceived and actual negative ecological, economic, and social impacts. To effectively manage invasive plants in forest ecosystems, it is paramount to understand the management decisions made by family forest owners (FFOs), who collectively own 36% of forestlands in the United States. We contribute to the growing literature on invasive plant management and the factors that influence FFOs' likelihood to manage invasive plants on their property by incorporating protection motivation theory (PMT; Rogers 1975). Protection Motivation Theory argues that the degree to which individuals protect themselves from a perceived threat varies as a function of the perceived severity of the threat, their vulnerability to the threat, their perceptions of self-efficacy to effectively mitigate the threat, and the degree to which they believe they have access to the resources needed to effectively respond to the threat. We surveyed a random sample of 2,600 FFOs in Indiana about their knowledge, perceptions, experience, and plans regarding invasive plants on their wooded lands. Consistent with PMT, we constructed a hierarchical binary logistic model and found that FFOs reported greater intentions to manage invasive plants when they perceived the problem to be more severe and also when they felt a stronger sense of self-efficacy to address the problem. Although perceived vulnerability was not significant in our final model, our results also show that FFOs who had previous invasive plant management experience, had a Bachelor's degree or higher level of education, owned woodlands for recreational purposes, and were more subject to normative social influence also tended to report greater intentions to manage invasive plants. Together, these results suggest that components of PMT (perceived severity and self-efficacy) may be used to inform potential strategies, programs, and outreach for engaging family forest owners in invasive plant management.