Informing Landowner Decisions
Through Community Conversations
Many landowners don't think about their woods on a day-to-day basis, except to enjoy the privacy, scenery, and tranquil environment to live in and raise a family. However, at some point in every landowner's life, a decision about what to do with their woods arises.
Since most woodland owners typically don't often sell timber and plan the future of their land, they therefore don't know where to turn for advice when these very important decisions arise. It is crucial for landowners to know their options and make informed decisions. When landowners need to make decisions, they often turn to their friends and neighbors for information. Learn more about peer-to-peer learning.
Woods Forum programs are based on the premise that local owners have much to learn from one another about their woods and their experiences. Woods Forum programs are meant to provide the opportunity for landowners to share their knowledge and experiences with each other. The programs also provide an opportunity for landowners to meet local foresters and land trusts who can help them with their decisions.
Read a journal article on the effectiveness of Woods Forum programs: Challenging the Traditional Forestry Extension Model: Insights from the Woods Forum Program in Massachusetts.
Specifically, these are not “workshops” at which landowners are “students” who are there to “learn” or be “taught” something by someone. Instead, these events or forums are organized to stimulate a discussion forum in which landowners can ask their questions and get answers from both neighbors and professionals. The discussion forum also encourages landowner interaction with local land trusts and conservation organizations.
A brief presentation customized for each target area is presented at the beginning by Dave Kittredge, State Extension Forester, and Paul Catanzaro, Extension Assistant Professor, to provide background information and foster discussion. The Woods Forum is brought to a close by a short summary presentation. However, it is typical for the conversations to continue, extend into the parking lot and even beyond.
Example Woods Forum Presentation
The overall goals of a Woods Forum program are that landowners will know:
- What kind of information they need to make informed decisions,
- What their alternatives are for their land,
- Where to go within their own community for more information,
- Their land impacts the larger landscape,
- The role they can play in providing advice to other landowners when they need to make a decision about their own land.
Woods Forum programs have been delivered by the Forest Conservation program of UMass Extension and the UMass - Amherst Department of Environmental Conservation. Please contact us if you are interested in hosting a Woods Forum program. Sponsoring a Woods Forum can be an effective way for organizations to reach landowners in their area. Organizations are also more than welcome to facilitate their own Woods Forum program.
Each Forum is typically organized around a cluster of 4-6 towns and held on weekday evenings. They can be hosted most anywhere, including town halls, community centers, and conservation organization headquarters. It is always best to stay away from government buildings. Learn more about how to organize a Woods Forum program.
Below are example resources you are welcome to use. Please share your resources so that others can benefit:
Contact Paul Catanzaro to learn more about Woods Forums or if you would like to sponsor one in your community.