Peterson, M.N., X.D. Chen, and Jianguo Liu. 2008. "Household location choices: Implications for biodiversity conservation." Conservation Biology, 22(4): 912-921.
Successful conservation efforts require understanding human behaviors that directly affect biodiversity. Choice of household location represents an observable behavior that has direct effects on biodiversity conservation, but no one has examined the sociocultural predictors of this choice relative to its environmental impacts. We conducted a case study of the Teton Valley of Idaho and Wyoming (U.S.A.) that (1) explored relationships between sociodemographic variables, environmental attitudes, and the environmental impact of household location choices, (2) assessed the potential for small household sizes in natural areas to multiply the environmental impacts of household location decisions, and (3) evaluated how length of residency predicted the environmental attitudes of people living in natural areas. We collected sociodemographic data, spatial coordinates, and land-cover information in a survey of 416 households drawn from a random sample of Teton Valley residents (95% compliance rate). Immigrants (respondents not born in the study area) with the lowest education levels and least environmentally oriented attitudes lived in previously established residential areas in disproportionately high numbers, and older and more educated immigrants with the most environmentally oriented attitudes lived in natural areas in disproportionately high numbers. Income was not a significant predictor of household location decisions. Those living in natural areas had more environmental impact per person because of the location and because small households (< 3 people/household) were 4 times as likely in natural areas as large households. Longer residency in natural areas predicted less environmentally oriented attitudes, suggesting that living in natural areas does not foster more concern for nature. Because populaces are rapidly aging, growing more educated, and potentially growing more environmentally oriented, these patterns are troubling for biodiversity conservation. Our results demonstrate a need for environmentalists to make household location decisions that reflect their environmental attitudes and future research to address how interactions between education level, environmental attitudes, population aging, and household location choices influence biodiversity conservation.