With the rise of globalization, the spread of invasive species has become increasingly prevalent and problematic. A characteristic of many biological invasions is a period of rapid population growth following introduction; management and control is most likely to be successful if it occurs prior to that period of rapid growth. Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar, ERC) is a woody species currently invading the Great Plains of the USA. Although it is native to Nebraska, it is spreading into grasslands and rangelands where it was not historically present and has the potential to seriously disrupt the local economy, including cattle production. Because so much of Nebraska is privately owned lands, it is critical that the public understands the seriousness of the ecological and economic costs of cedar invasion, and the importance of properly managing both private and public lands. Cedar can be controlled via regular burning to grasslands, which removes woody brush and revitalizes native grasses, however, public opinion of prescribed fire is uncertain. We utilized the 2015-2016 Nebraska Annual Social Indicators Survey to determine which demographic of Nebraska’s citizens is the least knowledgeable and least concerned about ERC invasion, to understand where future ERC awareness efforts should be concentrated.
Preliminary results show that Nebraskans in general are more likely to say ERC is not a problem and that Nebraskans who live in open country that isn’t farmland are the most likely to say that ERC is not a problem. Of the respondents, 41% manage ERC, and they indicate that time (39%) is the biggest barrier to their management, followed by money (23%). Curiously, lack of knowledge of control options is not a major barrier (12%). The implication of these results is that awareness of ERC invasion in Nebraska is low, despite its seriousness. Efforts to increase awareness should be directed towards urban areas to educate the largest number of people, and towards rural non-farm areas to educate the least aware demographic, who ostensibly have the most use of ERC in windbreaks and for aesthetics. It also appears to be more important to demonstrate why ERC invasion is undesirable, than to present management techniques which can prevent invasion.