Invasion, Cost-share, and Private Landowners: Resolving the Challenges of Scale with Managing Juniperus Virginiana on Nebraska's Rangelands

With the rise of globalization, the spread of invasive species has become increasingly prevalent and problematic. A characteristic of many biological invasions is a period of rapid population growth following introduction; management and control is most likely to be successful if it occurs prior to that period of rapid growth. Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar, ERC) is a woody species currently invading the Great Plains of the USA. Although it is native to Nebraska, it is spreading into grasslands and rangelands where it was not historically present and has the potential to seriously disrupt the local economy, including cattle production. Cedar can be controlled via regular burning to grasslands, which removes woody brush and revitalizes native grasses, however, public opinion of prescribed fire is uncertain.

Because so much of Nebraska is privately owned, it is critical that the public understands the seriousness of the ecological and economic costs of cedar invasion, and the importance of properly managing both private and public lands. Cost-share programs provide funding that offsets the cost of and provides technical assistance for management which improves the environment, and engaging landowners educates them on local ecological issues and solutions, potentially educating their friends and neighbors, too. Joining a cost-share program is voluntary, so to increase participation, much research has been done to determine which incentives are preferred by the majority of landowners. Although these studies have discussed the social aspect of cost-share, they overlook the ramifications of structuring a program based on landowner preferences rather than ecological science. If cost-share management is at a smaller scale than ERC invasion, management will not be successful in the long run.

Goals

The purpose of this study is to understand the perceptions of Nebraskan landowners in regards to ERC and ERC management, and the ways participation-based incentives influence the scale of management of NGPC cost-share programs which remove ERC, to identify where these programs are succeeding at their conservation goals and where improvements can be made.

Current Status

To do this, we will create and send out a mail survey to a random sample of Nebraska landowners in three separate Biologically Unique Landscapes which use different strategies for ERC removal, as well as utilizing previously collected data from the 2015-2016 Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey. In addition, spatial data quantifying the spread on ERC in Nebraska will be obtained from an analysis of aerial imagery to accurately compare scale of management and scale of invasion.

Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig R. Allen, NECFWRU
-Dirac Twidsell, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Graduate Student(s)
-Brittany Dueker, M.S.
Project Duration
August 2016-May 2018
Funding
-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Project Location
Statewide Nebraska