Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Natural Resources

First Advisor

James D. Murdoch


Increasing development like roads and houses will alter the future landscape of Vermont. Development provides important resources for people and society, but also results in consequences for wildlife and opportunities for recreation. Managing development requires information on the public's acceptability of development and how acceptability is shaped by information on various consequences. In this study, I examined three questions: 1) What is the public's acceptability of development? 2) Does wildlife information influence public acceptability of development and 3) Is the maximum amount of acceptable development influenced by views about wildlife, involvement in recreation, and demographic factors? I surveyed 9,000 households in Vermont by including a questionnaire which asked about development, wildlife, recreation, and demographics. I assessed acceptability of amount of development using social-norm curves and used parametric significance tests and mixed-effects models to examine the influence of wildlife, recreation, and demographic factors. The survey response rate was 44%. The maximum acceptable amount of development was slightly more than 32 households/km2, and not meaningfully influenced by the broader consequences of development on seven common wildlife species. The public demonstrated a strong preference for clustered development over sprawled development, which became unacceptable at 20 households per km2. Maximum acceptability of development was significantly influenced by views on some species, including bear, bobcat, and fisher, but not by others such as deer, fox, raccoon, and coyote. Similarly, those involved in common forms of outdoor recreation, including birding, ATVing, hunting, fishing and camping, were significantly less accepting of development relative to those not involved in these forms of recreation. Maximum amount of development was also affected by demographic factors, including town density, respondent age, home ownership and location of birth. The results provide a baseline measure of the public's acceptability of development, which can be used to guide decision-making about amount and pattern of development, wildlife management, and efforts to promote recreation in the state.



Number of Pages

86 p.