Forestry and Forest Industry: A Fish and Wildlife Agency's Current Perspective

In recent years, conflicting viewpoints on natural resource management in Mississippi have existed between the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) and forest industry. The continuing success of commercial forestry as a leading economic activity in Mississippi depends, in part, on a successful communication and education program by the forestry community (e.g., large private corporations, smaller firms, public agencies and organizations, non-governmental organizations, and universities) targeted to constituency groups such as MDWFP and the general public. Our study developed a foundation for this task. Our objective was to determine the values, attitudes, and perceptions of MDWFP's administration, technical staff, and conservation officers regarding Mississippi's forest industry. We conducted focus groups to collect qualitative information and develop survey questions and then mailed a survey measuring MDWFP personnel's values, attitudes, perceptions, and needs regarding the forest industry. Survey results indicated agency personnel had differing attitudes concerning forest industry (P = 0.000). There were significant differences in the attitudes of the technical staff and administration, both of which tended to be slightly more negative toward forestry and forest industry (P = 0.382) than conservation officers. Administrators had mixed attitudes towards forest industry in general, and were in favor of receiving information if it was on a local level. The technical staff had more negative attitudes towards industry, particularly in regard to environmental issues. Conservation officers had significantly more favorable attitudes toward forestry and forest industry than the technical staff and administrators (P = 0.000, P = 0.001, respectively) and wanted to receive additional information. Although the agency is willing to work with forest industry and the forestry community on wildlife issues affected by forest management activities, there needs to be a well-planned, good faith communication and education effort on both sides addressing the needs of each.

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