Knowledge, Attitudes, and Opinions of Community Leaders and Residents in Tazewell County Regarding Endangered Species and Aquatic Conservation

Effective conservation and restoration of endangered mussels requires community support. Numerous studies have been made of the aquatic resources in the upper Clinch River, Tazewell County, Virginia, but prior to this effort, no study has assessed what the human community that lives in this biodiversity hotspot knows and thinks about their community's natural resources. We surveyed community leaders and residents of Tazewell County, Virginia, to assess baseline knowledge of the upper Clinch River watershed, endangered mussels, aquatic conservation, and water quality issues. The survey response rate is 40%. We compared total knowledge scores of the community to attitude and opinion data to assess if knowledge and understanding of endangered mussels are correlated with attitudes and opinions of the resource. According to preliminary results, residents are aware mussels occur in the community, but are not as aware of their status or their ecosystem services. We also surveyed and interviewed community leaders responsible for making land use management decisions to determine if their views were consistent with views of their constituents. Survey results will be used to develop specific outreach strategies designed to generate community support for aquatic resource conservation in Tazewell County.

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