Sisneros, Chris (2015). Understanding Westerners’ relationship with public lands and federal land managers through attachment to public lands. Doctoral dissertation, Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, Utah State University.
Abstract: The vast swathes of public lands in the western U.S. have long been connected with both the culture and daily lives of the people that live near them. The purpose of this study is to understand the relationship that individuals have with public lands and how that relationship relates to their opinions about the federal agencies (specifically the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management) that oversee those public lands. This is done through the use of the affective bond attachment to public lands, which is the degree to which individuals feel connected to public lands through both the opportunities they provide to enjoy their desired lifestyle, functional connections, and the ways in which personal identity is tied to those lands, emotional connections. Assessing this bond is done through analysis and interpretation of selected data from the 2007 Public Lands and Utah Communities survey, which looked at a variety of connections Utah residents have to the state’s many public lands. This study utilizes a novel statistical method known as the “inverted-R analysis,” which groups respondents based on answers to a variety of attitudinal measures, to develop three distinct typologies of attachment to public lands. Analysis of differences between the groups of respondents that expressed different types of attachment revealed no correlation between attachment to public lands and opinions about land managers. All respondents expressed generally negative sentiment towards both Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management land managers. However, respondents who expressed a stronger attachment to public lands also demonstrated higher levels of interaction with public lands. Additionally, functional and emotional connections to public lands were shown to operate as two separate parts of attachment to public lands. This reinforces the modeling of the conceptualization attachment to public lands after the related concept, place attachment. This study demonstrated both the strong connections individuals in Utah have with public lands and the strong opinions held about the agencies that manage those lands.