Adam S. Willcox, William M. Giuliano
Rangeland Ecology and Management 67 (6), 629-635, (1 November 2014) https://doi.org/10.2111/REM-D-13-00114.1
KEYWORDS: conservation behavior, Farm Bill, field days, rancher, theory of planned behavior, workshops
US natural resources and wildlife agencies have been increasing their efforts to involve cattle ranchers in wildlife conservation through technical assistance programs that provide for wildlife conservation activities. Understanding why ranchers choose to be involved in these programs is fundamental to increasing participation and ensuring their success. Using the theory of planned behavior as a theoretical model, we surveyed 1 093 ranchers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi to explain and predict intention to participate in technical assistance programs, specifically, wildlife workshops and field days. All three theory components—attitude, subjective norm, and perceived behavioral control—were important to intent to participate and explained 41% of the variance, with perceived behavioral control and subjective norm having the greatest standardized effects (β = 0.329 and β = 0.316, respectively). Investigation of the construct components yielded insight into how agencies could increase participation. Ranchers generally held positive attitudes toward wildlife workshops, perceiving them to be a good way to learn about wildlife management and perceiving that most ranches were suitable for wildlife, an instance of perceived behavioral control. However, ranchers did not perceive that workshops and field days were widely advertised or promoted, limiting the amount of perceived control they had over their participation. Additionally, ranchers identified normative groups whose opinions were important to them, namely their families, friends and neighbors, fellow ranchers, and agency staff. However, these same groups were not seen to actively encourage ranchers to participate in technical field days and workshops. Using key members of these normative groups to advertise and promote workshops and field days among their peers should increase rancher behavioral control and attitudes associated with technical workshops and field days. Employing strategies from this research to increase attendance at technical workshops and field days should improve wildlife conservation technical assistance program effects.