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Goal: Deliver Benefits to the Public Strategies for successful engagement of African American landowners in forestry

North Carolina forest owner Roger McGee with one of his young longleaf pines
Right: North Carolina forest owner Roger McGee with one of his young longleaf pines.
Left: North Carolina forest landowners Thomas and Lola Newkirk on family land deeded to Thomas from his grandmother. (Forest Service photos by Sarah Hitchner)

Introduction

Following four years of operation of the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program (SFLR), we conducted qualitative research on the three longest running projects to identify lessons for success. The SFLR succeeded through a sustained community-based effort. Lessons for success include addressing obstacles and constraints identified by prior research, establishing community-based networks to provide coordinated outreach and education, linking legal assistance for heirs’ property with forestry assistance, patiently engaging landowners through a process of forestry awareness and action, and resolving difficulties and maintaining momentum with regular feedback and problem solving.

Summary

In 2012, the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program was initiated by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities and the USDA Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service. Three community-based pilot projects were begun in three states, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. Following four years of operation, research was carried out to identify lessons for success. This was a contrast to prior research that had described the problem and made recommendations, but not analyzed what works. Researchers conducted qualitative interviews with 33 individuals associated with the projects, including African American landowners, natural resource professionals from state and federal agencies, cooperative extension agencies, and private forest industry professionals. We identified processes to enhance awareness and education about forestry, to address ownership issues and heirs’ property, to improve participation in financial assistance programs, and to increase returns from timber harvesting. We also identified a 10-step process for gradually increasing landowners’ engagement with sustainable forest management.

Principal Investigator
John Schelhas, Research Forester
RWU
4952 - Integrating Human and Natural Systems
Strategic Program Area
Resource Management and Use
Publication
Strategies for successful engagement of African American landowners in forestry
CompassLive Article
African American Forest Landowners: Overcoming Obstacles
External Partner
Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, University of Georgia