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Professional judgment in non-industrial private forestry: Forester attitudes and social norms influencing biodiversity conservation

By Eeva Primmer and Heimo Karppinen


The integration of conservation into management of non-industrial private forests rests with professional foresters. This paper empirically examines the intentions of foresters to conserve habitats beyond what is the minimum legally defined requirement when planning forestry operations: either by delineating particular habitats defined in the Finnish Forest Act completely outside the operation, despite this not being the obligation, or by delineating other valuable habitats that are not defined in the law. This type of voluntary exceeding of minimum conservation requirements is dependent on professional judgment, which is the focus of this article. The analysis applies the theory of planned behaviour, according to which intentions to behave in a particular fashion are influenced by attitudes, subjective norm, and perceived control over the behaviour. The investigation pays attention to behavioural and normative beliefs as well as other contextual factors influencing habitat delineation practice. The data consist of 311 survey responses (response rate 58%) of Finnish foresters planning forestry operations in non-industrial private forests, employed by public, private and associational organisations. The model is rather powerful in explaining intentions to exceed the minimum requirements. We find social norms to have a strong influence on delineation intentions. This effect is stronger in the case of delineation of other valuable habitats than in the more standardised delineation of legally defined habitats where the foresters have broader experience and consider themselves more autonomous. Normative beliefs relative to other foresters' expectations dominate the general subjective norm, signalling a primacy of a professional norm and the importance of peer networks. Also the general attitude has a strong influence on intentions, whereas the effect of perception of control is low. Past behaviour predicts intentions, which implies tradition and habit to have an important role in defining the way biodiversity conservation is integrated into forest management. In other words, abrupt changes are unlikely to occur in an institutionalized practice. Our analysis contributes to the understanding of policy implementation as well as governance of multiple functions of forests more generally.Attitude Social norm Professional forester Biodiversity conservation Non-industrial private forestry Theory of planned behaviour Habitat delineation

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