Urban Residents' Perceptions About The City of Austin's Wildlands
Martin, Laura Elizabeth
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Increasing resettlement in and around Austin, decrease in water discharge rates and loss of endangered species habitat led to the creation of the City of Austin wildlands. The study consisted of a mail survey of 1,000 residents living near the City of Austin?s Water Quality Protection Lands and Balcones Canyonland Preserve for the purpose of identifying residents? perceptions and knowledge about the wildlands in order to provide direction for the City of Austin Wildland Division?s environmental education program. The two specific objectives were to (1) Understand factors that influence residents? knowledge, determine if previous participation in an environmental programs increases their level of knowledge, and to ascertain the effectiveness of different information outlets for increasing residents knowledge about environmental issues pertaining to the Edwards Aquifer and City of Austin?s wildlands and (2) Identify factors that influence residents? approval or disapproval of land management actions and the alternative recreation activities on the City of Austin?s wildlands. For objective one, it was expected that socio-demographic variables (eg: older, educated, males that live within Austin for a longer period of time) and behavioral variables (eg: previous involvement in environmental organizations), and acquisition of prior information about the wildlands would be positively associated with wildland knowledge. For objective two, it was expected that residents? management support would be positively associated with the perception that one of the purposes of the wildlands is to protect endangered species, respondents? positive experiences with the wildlands, pro-environmental behavior, and perceptions that the wildlands increase their property value. It was also expected that approval of wildland management actions would be positively associated with the extent to which residents have been negatively affected by wildlife and their level of concern about wildlife impacts on their property. Also, it was expected that respondents? approval of vegetation management actions, such as the use of fire, would be negatively associated with the extent to which residents have seen smoke on the wildlands and their level of concern about wildfire. The regression analyses conducted to test the first objective showed positive associations between local newspaper readership and residents? knowledge about environmental issues and the City of Austin?s wildlands. Previous pro-environmental behavior by residents positively related to their knowledge about environmental issues pertaining to the wildlands. Furthermore, survey respondents who were older, male, and had lived in the City of Austin for a longer time were positively associated with environmental and City of Austin?s wildland knowledge levels. Some strategies for information dissemination about the wildlands include the use of local newspapers and homeowner association newsletters. New City of Austin residents who are younger and live in close proximity to the wildlands are the suggested target audience for initiating a proposed environmental education program. The results of regression analyses conducted to address objective two showed that approval of wildland management actions were positively associated with knowledge about rangelands and negatively associated with the level of concern about being negatively impacted by management actions used by the City of Austin. Results suggest that knowledge about specific environmental benefits associated with the management actions can improve respondents? support for management actions such as the use of prescribed fire and harvesting overpopulation of deer and hogs. The results of this study should help the City of Austin by providing (1) information about factors that influence residents? knowledge and suggested information dissemination channels (2) descriptive information about respondents? environmental knowledge levels, and (3) aid to improve an existing education program for the purpose of increasing support for management actions that are critical for attaining the objectives of the WQPL and BCP.