Stakeholders’ Perceptions of Geographical Criteria for Loblolly Pine Management for Bioenergy Production in Virginia
This study analyzed the perceptions of four stakeholder groups (forest landowners, private forest consultants, forest management researchers or educators, and federal or state agency foresters), regarding their management practices and preferred geographic growing conditions of loblolly pine in Virginia by combining AHP (analytical hierarchy process) and regression modeling. By ranking the importance of different geographical conditions for managing loblolly pine, we aimed to identify ways to support loblolly growth as a potential feedstock for biofuel generation. We achieved this through collecting survey responses from 43 stakeholders during the 2019 Virginia Forestry Summit. The results showed that the landowner, researcher/educator, and federal/state agency stakeholder groups all indicated that proximity to a mill was the most important criteria, whereas the consultant stakeholder group indicated that proximity to a road was the most important criteria. All the stakeholder groups indicated that distance from protected land was the least important criteria, followed by proximity to a water body and flat land. The regression model revealed that acres of land managed and loblolly rotation age were correlated to the weight given to the distance to a mill criterion, where increased acreage and increased rotation age were associated with an increased prioritization of proximity to a mill. Distance from protected land, the lowest-ranking criteria, was shown to have an association with the level of experience with loblolly, where more experience was associated with a lower prioritization of proximity from protected land. A contingency analysis of the self-identified level of experience with loblolly in each stakeholder group revealed that federal/state agency foresters had the most experience, followed by consultants, landowners, and researchers/educators. The research supports the importance of understanding the variation of perceptions between and within stakeholder groups in order to develop the necessary infrastructural and policy support for the sustainable development of bioenergy.