“We all have a strong emotional attachment to the land and so that's the thing that drives us to work hard to maintain it and keep it healthy.”
For those of us within UC ANR who are actively involved with the Forest Stewardship Education Initiative, this participant's comment comes as no surprise. Participant's in the workshops are highly motivated, driven by various goals and objectives, to manage their forests or oak woodlands. UC ANR's goals are to educate forest landowners to better understand, manage and protect their forests by developing a forest management plan, implementing vegetation management projects, engaging with natural resource professionals, and taking advantage of cost-share opportunities that can help them meet their management goals. After three years hosting seventeen workshop series with over 350 participants, five special sessions, and two additional field days, we wanted to know how successful participants have been and how we can continue to support them.
In 2021, project PI Susie Kocher, Forestry and Natural Resources Advisor; co-PI Kim Ingram, Forest Stewardship Academic Coordinator; and Forestry and Natural Resources Advisors and project collaborators Mike Jones and Ryan Tompkins, conducted interviews of Forest Stewardship participants to help better understand their concerns and management goals.
Feelings about their forestland: Landowners told us how much they enjoy the plants and animals they encounter and that they don't mind putting in the hours of work required to meet their management goals. They want to keep forestland in the family and often talk about the need for succession planning.
“We want to be able to pass on to the next generation. They will keep it in the family and keep it open to family members for recreation and just to be there. It's family history.”
Landowner goals and concerns: Many landowners have ecological conservation, restoration, and resilience goals which are driven by concern about wildfire, climate change, drought, and tree mortality. High fuel loads and concerns around pests and diseases were often mentioned in the interviews, which directly reflect their goals around forest health and wildfire resilience.
“We would like to help the forest become more climate resilient, drought resilient, and also fire resilient. We clearly want to manage the forest to prevent that sort of devastating damage from a firestorm-like event or any sort of fire.”
How important are the following reasons for why you currently own your wooded land in California? N=286
What landowners are doing: Interviewees described conducting activities that directly reflect their attitudes about forest management and their desire to improve forest health. This includes activities such as hand thinning, pile-burning and activities focused on water quality or quantity, chipping, commercial or non-commercial thinning, defensible space, road building or maintenance and invasive or non-invasive species removal. Additionally, landowners are overwhelmingly paying for these activities out of their own pockets.
“We have a fair amount of water on the property, so there are a couple of bogs and couple of mud pits that were part of the road system. We kind of rerouted some things around and made sure that we weren't tearing things up anymore.”
Ongoing needs: The most frequently mentioned barrier was the cost of treatments and financial limitations. The lack of an available qualified workforce, having to decide on management activities to undertake with multiple ownership partners, and time were also identified as barriers.
“I'm up there for a weekend and what can I get done in a weekend? Then while I'm also up there, I'm trying to help with chopping wood or clearing blackberry bushes and things out for my parents. So, time became part of that obstacle for me.”
Landowner recommendations: Lastly, we asked participants what they would recommend California natural resources agencies do to help landowners like them manage their forests. They strongly recommended increasing awareness, education and outreach as a way for natural resource agencies to focus their efforts and financial resources around forest management. Landowners also expressed the need for an overall increase in forest and forest management awareness in communities and across the state.
“Ag extension and the forester community, you have such great services and such great knowledge. The stewardship workshop was a huge way of getting that knowledge out into the community. But you know, it just needs to be so much more of a push out into the community.”
Workshop participants learning how to use the California Tree Stick at the Butte Co-hort field day. Photo by Kim Ingram