A woman’s relationship with the natural world is often unique and meaningful. For women who own land, this connection can be rewarding and challenging. Women landowners engage with their woods in various ways, including enjoying the beauty of their property, caring for wildlife and nature, and appreciating the privacy that owning land offers. A new publication from the University of Massachusetts, Michigan State University, and Women Owning Woodlands Network (WOW Nets) aims to help women landowners better understand their woodlands and make informed decisions to meet their goals. Based on interviews with women landowners and forestry professionals across the eastern United States, the publication aims to identify some of the most common questions, goals, and challenges of women landowners.
According to the National Woodland Owner Survey (familyforestresearchcenter.org), women are the sole owners of 7 percent of the family forest ownerships in the eastern United States and co-owners of another 50 percent, often with a spouse. Through family partnerships or trusts, sole ownership, or co-ownerships, women are involved in the decisions of at least 60 percent of the forested ownerships in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes regions. Additionally, the number of women landowners will likely increase in the coming years, with the landowner population aging and women generally outliving men. During this time, many women will assume sole ownership of their land and transition from co-owners to primary decision-makers.
Some women may feel that they have less experience and knowledge of their land than their male counterparts. Additionally, they may lack the know-how to engage in active stewardship strategies and conservation-based estate planning. There is a vast amount of information and resources available to landowners, so much so that it can feel overwhelming. Ecological, monetary, and aesthetic impacts, as well as personal time and financial constraints, are important components to consider when making ownership decisions.
Women on the Land provides background information on forest ecology so that women can connect with other landowners and natural resource professionals with vocabulary and concepts that are critical to communicating different stewardship strategies. The publication guides women to think through their goals for their land and decide if active, passive, or a combination of the two approaches makes sense for them and their land. Some common active stewardship options are outlined as well as a section about working with professionals, the financials of woodland ownership, and planning the future of their land. In addition, there are seven landowner case studies that share the joys and challenges of land ownership throughout the eastern region.
A pdf of "Women on the Land" can be found here. Learn more about Woodland Connections for Women, the Massachusetts-based women's woodland owner's group at masswoods.org/women. For more information on the national Women Owning Woodlands, visit their webpage at www.womenowningwoodlands.net.