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Individual Highlight

Engaging African American Forest Owners in Sustainable Forest Management

Photo of John Schelhas discusses family land history with Eleanor Cooper Brown in South Carolina. Sarah Hitchner, University of Georgia Athens.John Schelhas discusses family land history with Eleanor Cooper Brown in South Carolina. Sarah Hitchner, University of Georgia Athens.Snapshot : Baseline research was conducted in three southern U.S. states for a community- based outreach program: the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program. Research found that African American landowners placed a high value on their land because of links to family history and struggles to obtain it; yet land ownership was precarious, and few land ownerships were generating economic returns. Although past engagement in forestry was limited, forestry can be an attractive future option if barriers to technical and financial assistance are addressed.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Schelhas, John 
Research Location : North Carolina, South Carolina, Alabama
Research Station : Southern Research Station (SRS)
Year : 2016
Highlight ID : 1134

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 U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and Natural Resource Conservation Service. Three community-based pilot projects were begun in three states: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama. Research was carried out to establish baseline conditions for the pilot regions, strengthen project planning and management, and add to knowledge of the relationships among African Americans, land, and forests. The researchers conducted qualitative interviews with 60 African American landowners in the three states on landownership and forestry-related issues. The results showed that while 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 the 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. Interviews 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.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

 
  • Center for Integrative Conservation, University of Georgia