A majority of Mississippians have generally positive attitudes toward forestry and would like additional information about the forestry community.
Those are among findings from a statewide survey of public perceptions of the state's $11.9 billion forest industry. The yearlong effort recently was completed by Mississippi State University's Forest and Wildlife Research Center.
"Teachers, who had one of the highest response rates to the survey, have an overall positive attitude toward forestry," said associate professor Steve Grado. "They think it beneficial to tell the forest industry story to their students."
Grado, assisted by forestry department graduate students Marcus Measells of Morton and Rachel Habig of Russellville, Ala., mailed questionnaires to nearly 5,400 Mississippi teachers, loggers, private forest landowners, bankers, legislators, and members of conservation or environmental groups. Almost 2,500 were completed and returned.
The American Forest and Paper Association's Mississippi State Implementation Committee for the Sustainable Forestry Initiative sponsored the project.
Teachers and some other groups indicated that most information they receive about forestry comes from environmental groups and others not directly involved with the forestry community, Grado said.
The highest response rate came from the conservation/environmental groups. "Public concerns about forestry include the environmental impact of harvesting practices and the effects of forest management on wildlife," Grado observed.
"Questions in the survey addressed those concerns and the responses will help establish a long-term approach of elevating forestry and the forest industry in the consciousness of Mississippians," he added.
Grado said the study also found differences among the groups about how they wished to receive forestry-related information. For instance:
--Teachers said field trips, videos and educational materials are the best way to educate students about forestry and the forest industry;
--Public agencies, loggers, and conservation/environmental groups preferred educational programs and materials;
--Bankers, pamphlets, brochures and presentations;
--Legislators, presentations; and
--Forest landowners, more workshops.
"Survey results will help us identify issues of concern that call for immediate action," Grado said. "The next step will be long-term educational efforts to help correct any false perceptions already held about forestry and the forest industry."
For additional information on the study, contact Steve Grado at (662) 325-2792 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.