Although several private forest owner studies have dealt with how private forest owners understand forest management, little is known about the determinants of specific forest management concepts. The study expands previous latent variable models of the perception of forest management by European private forest owners by looking at how age, income, education, annual cut, and holding size and type influence specific understandings of forest management. We applied a multiple indicators multiple causes (MIMIC) structural equation model on a representative sample of 754 private forest owners from Slovenia. The MIMIC model confirmed the influence of six covariates on three concepts of forest management: the maintenance concept, the ecosystem-centered concept, and the economics-centered concept. The strongest determinants of perception were education and holding type. The maintenance concept was predominantly associated with less educated older full-time or part-time farmers working on smaller family farms and doing regular cuts. The perception of forest management as an economics-centered activity increased with increased education and dependence on income from intensive cuts. The ecosystem-centered concept was most strongly associated with younger, better-educated owners with smaller holdings and, surprisingly, not to non-farmers but to small-scale family farmers. However, the proportion of the variance of latent variables explained by the six covariates was low, ranging from 2.4% to 5.1%. Taking into account the influence of education and holding type on private forest owners’ perception of forest management, by increasing the level of education and raising the proportion of absentee owners in Europe, we expect a shift from the maintenance concept toward either an economics-centered or ecosystem-oriented concept for forest management. Despite the weak influence of private forest owners’ social economic profiles on forest management conceptualizations, governments should be aware of the trend and actively seek to prevent the polarization of forest management concepts.
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