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A War of Words: Do Conflict Metaphors Affect Beliefs about Managing “Unwanted” Plants?


  • Cameron G. Nay

    (Learning Resources Center, University of Alaska-Anchorage, 3211 Providence Dr., Anchorage, AK 99508, USA)

  • Mark W. Brunson

    () (Department of Environment and Society, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-5215, USA)


Woody plants have increased in density and extent in rangelands worldwide since the 1800s, and land managers increasingly remove woodland plants in hopes of restoring pre-settlement conditions and/or improved forage for grazing livestock. Because such efforts can be controversial, especially on publicly owned lands, managers often attempt to frame issues in ways they believe can improve public acceptance of proposed actions. Frequently these framing efforts employ conflict metaphors drawn from military or legal lexicons. We surveyed citizens in the Rocky Mountains region, USA, about their beliefs concerning tree-removal as a management strategy. Plants targeted for removal in the region include such iconic tree species as Douglas-fir and ponderosa pine as well as other less-valued species, such as Rocky Mountain juniper, that are common targets for removal nationwide. To test the influence of issue frame on acceptance, recipients were randomly assigned surveys in which the reason for conifer removal was described using one of three terms often employed by invasive biologists and land managers: “invasion”, “expansion”, and “encroachment”. Framing in this instance had little effect on responses. We conclude the use of single-word frames by scientists and managers use to contextualize an issue may not resonate with the public.

Suggested Citation

  • Cameron G. Nay & Mark W. Brunson, 2013. "A War of Words: Do Conflict Metaphors Affect Beliefs about Managing “Unwanted” Plants?," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(2), pages 1-12, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsoctx:v:3:y:2013:i:2:p:158-169:d:24579

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:105:y:2011:i:03:p:552-566_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Cook, Philip J & Clotfelter, Charles T, 1993. "The Peculiar Scale Economies of Lotto," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 83(3), pages 634-643, June.
    3. Xiao-Ping Chen & Shu Li, 2005. "Cross-national differences in cooperative decision-making in mixed-motive business contexts: the mediating effect of vertical and horizontal individualism," Journal of International Business Studies, Palgrave Macmillan;Academy of International Business, vol. 36(6), pages 622-636, November.
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    5. Schoemaker, Paul J H, 1982. "The Expected Utility Model: Its Variants, Purposes, Evidence and Limitations," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 529-563, June.
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    More about this item


    conifers; framing; land management; persuasion; public acceptance; woody plant encroachment;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • A14 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Sociology of Economics
    • P - Economic Systems
    • P0 - Economic Systems - - General
    • P1 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems
    • P2 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Systems and Transition Economies
    • P3 - Economic Systems - - Socialist Institutions and Their Transitions
    • P4 - Economic Systems - - Other Economic Systems
    • P5 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems
    • Z1 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics


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