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Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Document Type


Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Degree Type

Master of Science (M.S.)

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded



The future of Vermont’s 1.8 million hectares (4.5 million acres) of forest habitat will be largely determined by the decisions of family forest owners, who collectively own 60% of the state’s forested land. To promote management for wildlife habitat, government agencies and non-governmental partnerships provide technical and financial support to family forest owners in the form of conservation assistance programs. In Chapter 1, I qualitatively compared the efficacy of two types of conservation assistance programs available in Vermont: traditional programs offered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and a simplified, accelerated program offered through a non-governmental partnership called Woods, Wildlife, and Warblers. By conducting interviews with 20 Vermont family forest owners, I identified common motivation and barrier themes and compared these themes across programs using the Transtheoretical Model’s Stages of Change. Most motivations and barriers were described by landowners across all Stages of Change, but two motivations (professional recommendations and straightforward applications) and one barrier (independent forest management values) varied by either Stage of Change, program type, or both. I used the findings from the interviews to develop a mail survey, which was used to quantify patterns regarding motivations and barriers towards three habitat conservation actions: 1) arranging for a forestry professional to walk the land, 2) applying for cost-share funds, and 3) making a patch cut. The results from this survey, which was sent to 2,122 randomly selected Vermont family forest owners and had a cooperation rate of 38%, are presented in Chapter 2. Using logistic regression models, I identified multiple significant motivations or barriers for each of the three actions. Additionally, I used contingency tables to compare respondents’ levels of agreement for these motivations and barriers – as well as their level of trust for various information sources – with their Stage of Change. Overall, levels of agreement varied significantly across one or more Stages of Change for all motivations and barriers, and trustworthiness varied for 13 out of 14 information sources. Across both chapters, I provide recommendations to increase program efficacy with an emphasis on program attributes and tailored messaging.


First Advisor

Brett Butler

Second Advisor

Paige Warren

Third Advisor

Scott Jackson

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.