Private Forest Management
Forests are complex socio-ecological systems providing a range of ecosystem goods and services that are subject to different property rights regimes. Some forest features are common-pool resources (e.g. wildlife habitats), others have public good characteristics (e.g. carbon sequestration), and others are private goods (e.g. timber). The effectiveness of many private forestry programs is challenged by a lack of existing mechanisms to separate these forest features over time and space. In our response article “What is happening in and outside America’s private woodlands?”, Burney Fischer (Indiana University) and I argue that property rights systems are significant drivers of the use and misuse of private forest resources. In a second study “Public-private interactions in the conservation of private forests in the United States”, we extend this point and propose a framework for managing forests as a bundle of property rights. In addition, I have been involved in work examining the human and institutional drivers of reforestation in Indiana, USA, and São Paulo, Brazil. Our chapter, “Humans as agents of change in forest landscapes”, reports results from a NSF-funded study (PI: Tom Evans, Indiana University), drawing on interview, survey, and geospatial data from the two study areas. A third, related line of research has focused on the role of policy tools and programs in state and private forestry in the US. In “Evaluating the USFS State & Private Forestry Redesign: A First Look at Policy Implications”, we report on the initial effects of a policy change in the allocation of federal funding to states. I have also examined the relative effects of policy tools on landowners' decisions to reforest. Results are published in the Journal of Environmental Management, "Can incentives make a difference? Assessing the effects of policy tools for encouraging tree-planting on private lands".
Social Networks in Natural Resource Management
Social networks play an important role in the communication of information and how that information is used in making resource management decisions. In “The shared stewardship and leadership of our private forests: Insights from forest landowner personal networks”, I discuss the social environment within which forest owners acquire information and make land use choices, drawing on interviews with forty-two forest owners in South-Central Indiana. A second study extends this work by integrating interview and survey data to quantitatively describe network structure, and to provide a more qualitative understanding of network function and content (see “Variations in the social networks of forest owners: The effect of management activity, resource professionals, and ownership size”). Another manuscript under preparation, “The collaborative practices of professional foresters” draws on a survey of state service foresters to understand their interactions with landowners, and collaborations with other natural resource professionals, in forging efforts to sustainably manage private forests. Overall, this line of work contributes to emergent research on social networks in natural resource management.
Social Capital and Land Protection
Over the past two decades development of land and population pressures have increased, and so has the number of land trusts (LTs) across the country. With colleagues from Indiana University and Clemson University, I am examining (a) the role of social capital in facilitating land protection, and (b) variations in state and local policies for land protection. We empirically examine the level of social capital (defined as networks of organizational and interpersonal relationships) using interviews and survey data from 24 land trusts across the Blue Ridge region of western North Carolina, southwest Virginia, and eastern Tennessee. In a recent book chapter, "Social capital and land protection in rural Appalachia", I explore how different types of social capital (bonding, bridging, and linking social capital) facilitate land protection in rural areas. In another paper, "Networking for conservation: social capital and perceptions of success among land trust boards", we discuss how the social capital land trusts and their board members have relates to the perceived success of local land conservancies.
Forest-Based Climate Mitigation
This is a USFS-supported project evaluating voluntary and regulatory compliance protocols for carbon offsets from the forest sector. Our initial focus was to review and evaluate metrics used to assign baselines and quantify additionality in different carbon offset protocols. Most recently, my efforts, as part of this team, have focused on designing a survey experiment and a lab experiment to test the effects of contract length, uncertainty, and additionality on participation in carbon offset projects. This study builds on earlier research examining carbon leakage, and in particular, how two sub-national emissions trading schemes (RGGI and California's AB32) have confronted the issue of embodied emissions crossing jurisdictional boundaries (See, "The role of CO2 emissions from large point sources in emissions totals, responsibility, and policy". Check out, also, our recent book on forest carbon offsets, "Understanding and Analysis: The California Air Resources Board Forest Offset Protocol", and related articles, Additionality and permanence standards in California's Forest Offset Protocol: A review of project and program level implication, and Accounting for harvested wood products in a forest offset program: Lessons from California. For a recent discussion regarding the need to upscale carbon removal practices, see our review article "Rethinking standards of permanence for terrestrial and coastal carbon: implications for governance and sustainability" in Current Opinion on Environmental Sustainability.
Renewable Energy in the EU
Since 2007, European Union (EU) member states have been working towards a common energy policy, which requires that by 2020 renewable energy accounts for 20% of the EU’s total energy consumption. To meet this goal, each EU member state has adopted binding, country-specific targets to increase the share of its renewable energy usage. This study, in collaboration with Maria Petrova (University of Massachusetts), examines the opportunities for and barriers to achieving these targets in two recent EU member states, Bulgaria and Romania. Our project goals are: (1) To investigate the relationships among formal institutions (e.g. EU regulations, national laws), informal institutions (e.g. regular social behavior, norms), and motivations for renewable energy development; and (2) To understand the factors shaping the decisions of government, industry, and civil society organizations in the renewable energy sector. To organize our inquiry, we apply the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework. We conducted key informant interviews with participants in Bulgaria's renewable energy sector (Summer 2014, Summer 2015) and our findings can be found here. Both Bulgaria and Romania have been strong drivers of policy change in Southeastern Europe, and their resource endowments (biomass, solar, wind) are generally similar to those of other countries in the region. Given the strong trend for policy diffusion in Southeastern Europe, their implementation of the EU’s renewable energy targets can provide lessons for other nations in the region, as well as nations with comparable political history.