Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Minnesota
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Gigliotti, L.M., Sweikert, L.A., Cornicelli, L. Fulton, D.C. 2020. Minnesota landowners’ trust in their department of natural resources, salient values similarity and wildlife value orientations. Environment Systems and Decisions 40:577-587.
DOI: 10.1007/s10669-020-09766-z


Due to extensive land conversion over the last century, much of the native prairie pothole ecosystem has been converted to agricultural or other human uses. The prairie pothole ecosystem is found in the northern plains of Iowa, Minnesota, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. Because most of the land in this region is privately owned and used for agricultural production, most impacts to wildlife habitat are the result of decisions by individual landowners. Landowner trust in natural resource management agencies is important for agencies to effectively accomplish their mission. We measured the nature (competence and fairness) and level of trust that western Minnesota landowners have in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MnDNR) and landowners’ wildlife value orientations (WVO). Landowners rated MnDNR slightly higher in competence than fairness; however, these two dimensions were strongly correlated. We developed a MnDNR trust scale (six items) and a three-cluster model dividing landowners along the MnDNR trust scale, which we named Negative (28%), Neutral (43%), and Positive (29%). We provide evidence supporting the salient values similarity (SVS) model that states people have trust in agencies holding similar values; landowners reporting greater importance for wildlife consideration when making land-use decisions also reported greater trust in the MnDNR. In addition, mutualist landowners had the highest trust in the MnDNR and utilitarian landowners the lowest level of trust, which is opposite of the trust relationship reported for the general public with state wildlife agencies. Based on the SVS model, our results suggest that mutualist landowners perceive greater congruence with MnDNR goals related to wildlife habitat compared to utilitarian landowners.