Engaging African American landowners in sustainable forest management
The Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program is a comprehensive effort to address the long-standing problem of underparticipation of African Americans in forest management. We conducted rapid appraisal baseline research for pilot projects in this program in three Southern states using a carefully selected purposive sample to enhance our understanding of minority landownership and forest management. We found that whereas land represents an important family resource across generations, heirs’ property status often results in insecure property ownership, and most families receive little or no economic return from their land. Forest stands tended to be naturally regenerated pine forests that require thinning, burning, or even complete harvest and replanting if owners are to benefit economically from forestry. Forestry can help families retain land and
build assets, although most of the African American landowners included in our study noted that their previous engagement with forestry has been limited to opportunistic timber sales. Landowners expressed broad interest in future engagement in forestry activities and managing for wildlife. Our interview with landowners revealed that the community-based pilot projects were building links among landowners and foresters to encourage sustainable forest management and retention of African American family land.