BLANCO RIVER VALLEY RIPARIAN RESTORATION PROJECTS: LOCAL VALUES AND DECISIONS FOR RIPARIAN HABITAT MANAGEMENT FOLLOWING THE 2015 MEMORIAL DAY FLOODS IN WIMBERLEY, TEXAS
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Do natural disasters shift public attitudes and values towards riparian habitat conservation? Central Texas experienced one of the most devastating floods in Texas history over the 2015 Memorial Day weekend. The result was profuse destruction of vital riparian habitats as numerous trees and other species were uprooted and carried downstream by torrential flood waters. The absence of riparian vegetation, in areas converted to lawns and impervious surfaces, may have exacerbated the flood’s impacts resulting in significant property damage. Following this natural disaster, a multitude of Blanco River restoration projects went into effect. Some with the initiative to rehabilitate riparian zones back to their ecological health and others with a more antagonistic approach to habitat recovery. This study examines whether public attitudes and opinions towards riparian habitat conservation have changed following the experience of this natural disaster. Blanco River valley restoration projects will be used to understand the attitudes and values of the various stakeholders involved. A comprehensive and comparative analysis weighs local recovery actions to the perspectives of landowners. Qualitative interviews were conducted to investigate whether or not attitudes have shifted from aesthetic value to that of habitat conservation and restoration values. This study also investigates the role of education in the restoration process to determine to what extent land owners have adopted a science-based (SB) approach to habitat recovery. Research highlights a spatial perspective of riparian habitat fragmentation along the Blanco River after the Memorial Day floods and correlates them with stakeholder values.