U.S. Department of Agriculture: Forest Service -- National Agroforestry Center


Date of this Version



Published in Environmental Management (2009) 43:571–584.


Management of public lands occurs today with high levels of scrutiny and controversy. To succeed, managers seek the support, involvement, and endorsement of the public. This study examines trust as an indicator of managerial success and attempts to identify and measure the components that most influence it. A review of trust literature yielded 14 attributes that were hypothesized to contribute to trust, grouped into the three dimensions of Shared Norms and Values, Willingness to Endorse, and Perceived Efficacy. Operationalizing these attributes and dimensions, a telephone survey was administered to a sample of Montana, USA, residents living adjacent to the Bitterroot National Forest (n = 1,152). Each of the attributes was measured in the context of federal lands fire and fuel management. Structural equation modeling showed that all 14 attributes were found to be influential contributors to levels of trust. Results suggest that if managers are to maintain or increase levels of public trust, they need to consider each of trust’s attributes as they make social, ecological, and economic resource decisions.