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Study Finds Differences in How Men and Women Manage Family Forests

Participants at a Women's Chainsaw Safety Class. Photo by Barb Spears, Minnesota Women's Woodland Network

Although women are the primary decision-makers for more than 44 million acres of forest land in the United States and influence the land management decisions on many more acres, little is known about whether or how their management attitudes, behaviors, and intentions may differ from those of their male counterparts. Recognizing differences between male and female forest landowners is important for understanding constraints and barriers and should be considered in the design of forestry programs and outreach.

Across the United States, the percentage of family forest ownerships with women as the primary decision-maker increased from 11 percent in 2006 to 22 percent in 2013. A Northern Research Station scientist used data from the USDA Forest Service?s National Woodland Owner Survey, a national mail survey of family forest owners, to understand whether male and female forest landowners have different attitudes, ownerships objectives, behaviors, and intentions for their forest lands. She found that a large proportion of female forest owners are inheritors of woodland, particularly from a spouse, and thus may be responsible for final land-use decisions, such as selling or bequeathing their land. The study suggests that women are less likely than men to own their land for privacy, hunting, recreation, or timber. Women are also less likely than men to participate in forest management activities such as harvesting timber for sale, managing for wildlife, participating in landowner assistance programs, and recreating on their own land. Female landowners are also more likely to have undertaken no management activities in the past 5 years compared to male landowners. Research revealed that female owners prefer to get advice from family members rather than from professionals. Results suggest that fostering networks of female woodland owners could be a way for women to share information and concerns and become more confident in their own decision-making.

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External Partners

  • Sarah Butler, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Emily Silver Huff, Michigan State University
  • Mary Tyrrell, Yale University