Keywords: tree plantations, land use, intensive forestry, tree improvement, hybrid poplars, public perception, public participation, agricultural diversification, Alberta, Canada, farming identity, trust, economic competition, forestry biotechnology
Public perceptions of hybrid poplar plantations: trees as an alternative crop
This paper describes the differences between expert and public perceptions of plantation forestry and calls for greater public participation in the development and establishment of plantations. The debate over the social acceptability of varying land-uses is essentially a debate over how land is valued and the effects of land-use change on local peoples. This study reports the findings from 31 interviews with key informants, indicating central themes such as farming identity, trust and economic competition as important to an overall assessment of community perceptions of hybrid poplar plantations. Specifically, we suggest that all of these themes are linked to complex attachments to traditional rural land-use and fear of externally motivated change. Findings from this study contribute to a greater understanding of the public values at stake around tree plantations, where experts have emphasised ecological impacts and economic trade-offs and generally disregarded the social concerns raised above.