What are family forest owners thinking and doing about invasive plants?
Effectively managing invasive plants across forested landscapes requires voluntary control by 10.7 million family forest owners (FFOs) who own 36% of forestlands in the USA. The literature on individual and collective invasive plant management has focused on farmers, ranchers, urban gardeners and community residents, with less attention on forestlands and the role of FFOs. By analyzing survey data from 1422 FFOs in Indiana, USA, we provide a thorough assessment of their awareness, perceptions, behaviors and intentions towards invasive plants; as well as their needs and challenges. In our study, FFOs reported moderate familiarity with, concern about, and interest in invasive plant control on and around their properties. Despite a lack of confidence in their ability to manage invasive plants, FFOs reported having taken actions on the ground, including inspecting their woodlands, talking to their families and other landowners, and removing invasive plants, all without much input from natural resource professionals. Most FFOs relied on self-directed learning and social networks for invasive plant-related information and advice. They generally had little or no experience or interest in interacting with natural resource professionals. This suggests a need for natural resource professionals to refocus their efforts on developing communication strategies to target specific segments of FFOs, stronger online presence to facilitate self-directed learning, and partnerships with non-profit organizations trusted by FFOs to encourage self-organization and sharing of information and resources. These results from Indiana provide important insights for engaging FFOs to manage invasive plants more broadly.