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Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary (2014)

Chapter: 3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies

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Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
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3

Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies

States, counties, cities, other jurisdictions, and private organizations around the country are engaged in a wide array of projects designed to engage forestland owners in protecting and managing their land. The focus on the impacts of climate change on the forestland varies greatly across these projects. Speakers described their experiences, discussed their approach to addressing climate change, and identified strategies they had found effective and ineffective. Their remarks focused on regional and community forest management, online extension services, engagement of forestland owners and local governments in forest management, and minimized threats to forest health and sustainability. Follow-up discussion with participants highlighted additional questions.

REGIONAL AND COMMUNITY FOREST MANAGEMENT

Seventy percent of New England is forested, and 86 percent of that forestland is privately owned. A considerable portion of those privately owned forestlands is being managed by hundreds of local and regional land trusts that share concerns about the forestlands’ well-being, Bill Labich, regional conservationist at the nonprofit organization Highstead, explained. Thus, regional partnerships—informal networks of public and private agencies and organizations—are key to conservation in New

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

England, he observed.1 He described how Highstead acts as the steward of a tract of communally owned land and also both conducts and sponsors ecological research. Highstead is dedicated to increasing conservation and sustaining the forested and natural landscape in the region, in part by helping groups coordinate their efforts and collaborate across political boundaries; it also collaborates with Harvard University in a New England-wide conservation effort called Wildlands and Woodlands.2

Five years ago, Labich noted, many New England conservation groups that focus on forestlands did not even know of other such groups in the region. Now, however, Highstead sponsors an annual meeting to bring the groups together and also provides technical training, funding, and supportive research. Support and activities include web resources (e.g., an actively facilitated LinkedIn group), webinars, and gatherings at the state and local level.

In the New York/New England Family Forest Owner Outreach Initiative, one such collaboration facilitated by Highstead, state foresters, university researchers, and conservationists from four states worked together on engaging family forestland owners in stewardship and conservation activities on their own land and in the surrounding landscape. The project began with collaborations to increase understanding of the people who own New England forestland, and to identify effective strategies for engaging forestland owners. Regional partnerships from each of the four states identified threats to their forests and potential solutions, Labich noted, as well as specific messages they believed would be most effective with forestland owners in their regions.

The partnerships reached out to owners they were able to find through statewide databases or their own research on local data. They used postcards that flagged questions the owners might have about, for example, harvesting and selling trees, keeping woods healthy, reducing property taxes, learning about wildlife habitat, or improving recreational activities on their land. The owners were invited to educational forums and introduced to additional programs serving their area, such as a bird habitat assessment that provided an opportunity to meet with a wildlife biologist to learn more about how their land can be managed as a bird habitat.

Labich identified a few lessons from this work. One key to its success, he explained, is that “there is a sequence of events.” Owners become engaged and are guided to supports that meet their particular needs, while the partnership can track how the owners respond and evaluate

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1Labich referred participants to the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Forestry for more information on regional partnerships.

2For more information, see http://www.highstead.net/about/history.shtml and http://www.wildlandsandwoodlands.org/ [January 2014].

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

the results of different efforts and programs. Evaluation tools include a landowner database, sign-in sheets for events, surveys of owners’ attitudes, and follow-up phone calls. Learning what works is a primary goal of evaluation efforts, Labich explained, so Highstead collects feedback on its outreach efforts, but also data on subsequent actions that result from such efforts, such as meeting with a forester and developing a management plan or initiating a request for a land easement.

Labich emphasized that personal attention is very important: The postcards are far more effective, for example, if they are sent to owners by name, with a personal note, rather than by bulk mail. At the same time, owners who have not previously engaged with this sort of activity have welcomed opportunities to make personal connections and expand their networks within their own areas and states and also across state lines. The partnerships focus on the many benefits of connecting large forest blocks and increasing the resiliency of forestland, he added. They generally do not use climate change as the hook to engage people.

Bringing together communities that live near forestland is also a strategy used to create partnerships that benefit the health and sustainability of forests. For example, community forests—those that are not privately owned—are common throughout the world, noted Martha Lyman, a founding partner of the Community Forest Collaborative. Community forests range in size and structure, she added: They may be owned by a local government, a tribe, or a nonprofit organization such as a land trust or a conservation group, or be covered by a long-term stewardship contract with the Bureau of Land Management. They are supported by numerous organizations and institutions, including the Open Space Institute, the U.S. Forest Service’s Community Forest Program, and, in the New England region, the Community Forest Collaborative.

Lyman explained that the Community Forest Collaborative, which operates in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, was designed to take advantage of the resources and expertise of partners concerned with healthy forestland to promote community ownership and participation in forest management, to facilitate access to the benefits and value that the forest can bring, and to protect forestland generally.3 The collaborative focuses on the well-being of the community, treating forestland as an asset to civic life and a source of economic opportunity, as well as a resource to be conserved.

Though conservation and protection are critical, Lyman noted, the Collaborative found that talking about investments, assets to the community, and the community’s capacity for leadership was more effective in engaging communities and individuals than conservation itself. Two

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3See http://www.northernforest.org/Community_Forest_Collaborative.html [January 2014].

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
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projects illustrate how the Collaborative’s work with communities has addressed issues associated with climate change, she added.

The small town of Randolph, New Hampshire, encompassed a 10,000-acre tract of wooded land. She explained that the forest changed hands several times in a few years and the town grew concerned about protecting it. Randolph’s citizens were concerned not only about preserving the beauty of the tract located between two segments of the White Mountain National Forest, but also about the possibility that they would have to fund services for new development if the tract were broken up into parcels. With the assistance of the U.S. Forest Service and other partners, the town was able to buy the forest. The Forest Service was glad to protect an important wildlife corridor, she noted, and has fostered a very productive relationship in which resource and management strategies are shared. The town is very committed to long-term stewardship and has invested in monitoring stations that have been placed throughout the forest, and has invited researchers and visitors to help with gathering data. Lyman noted that public participation has been critical to success from the beginning of this project. Public hearings provided a venue for input and communication, and the public remains engaged in setting management priorities for the forest.

The town of Grand Lake Stream, Maine, faced the same concern when the Farm Cove Forest nearby changed hands repeatedly in a short time. The town, however, did not have the capacity to acquire the land, and also faced disagreements about forest issues. A group of citizens set up a private, nonprofit land trust that was able to acquire 27,000 acres. They later added an additional 6,000 acres, and the land became the Farm Cove Community Forest. Protecting this forest was important at a broader scale, Lyman explained. It, too, is in the middle of a wildlife corridor, as well as an international conservation initiative, the Downeast Lakes Forest Partnership.

These and other community forests slow the pace at which forestland is being fragmented, Lyman observed. Both serve as buffers for ecological reserves—a key component of adaptation to climate change. Many community forests are watershed lands, she added, so managing them in ways that protect water quality is important. They can also provide value to their communities in surprising ways. For example, the Farm Cove Community Forest raised $200,000 by selling carbon offsets, which allowed them to purchase an additional 21,000 acres. In these and many other cases, she added, collaborative management across ownership and public engagement are critical to success.

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

ONLINE EXTENSION SERVICES

Online communication has provided another vehicle for engaging landowners in climate change issues, as Eli Sagor, extension educator at the University of Minnesota, explained. He illustrated the possibilities for this approach with a website developed by the University of Minnesota, called My Minnesota Woods.4 This site has multiple features, he noted, including a Twitter account, Facebook page, and email newsletter. The programming is focused less on the broad challenges of climate change—he noted that they rarely use the term—but rather on improving forest health. Thus, on My Minnesota Woods, adaptation rather than mitigation is addressed, and such goals as keeping forestland forested, increasing productivity, and keeping trees healthy are stressed. Extension educators use the website to encourage owners and others to monitor forestland; notice changes, opportunities, and threats to forestland; and inform themselves about how to interpret the changes.

Most owners do manage their land, Sagor observed, and the website’s strategy is to encourage them to increase and improve the ways they manage their land. The website invites and facilitates dialogue, providing platforms for answering the questions owners are likely to have in an inexpensive and accessible way. It provides guides to reliable, research-based information about such questions as, “What are my basic forest management options? How does it work to sell timber in Minnesota? Who does what? How can I make sure it goes well? What forest health issues should I look out for?”

The information on the website is easily accessible by using everyday language and contains links to other web locations that offer workshops and other programming. Sagor and colleagues recognize that attending a workshop is expensive in both time and funds, and that many owners want to focus on the information they personally need. Therefore, they disseminate the workshop information in a variety of ways so that owners have access to what is relevant to them. They have also begun to expand their reach, for instance by collaborating with the Sustainable Forest Education Cooperative, which targets professionals who work with forestlands, such as loggers.

In Sagor’s view, the focus on forest health has been effective in engaging forestland owners. Global perspectives on forestland management and conservation have been too remote or abstract to reach his target audience, and he believes the message about climate change is both frightening and confusing for them. On the other hand, owners can experience forest health; they can “see and touch and feel—they see the bugs in their

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4See http://www.myminnesotawoods.umn.edu/ [January 2014].

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

woods and the trees dying.” Forestland owners, he added, may not think of themselves as foresters, but “they love watching things grow; they love noticing the seasonal changes.”

To leverage this interest in direct observation, My Minnesota Woods developed a program on phenological observation, in which participants report seasonal changes to flowering they observe to the National Phenology Database, using their smart phones or home computers. In this way, users build data about their own land, contribute to a national effort by collecting data in a manner consistent with standardized protocols, and also receive support in interpreting the data. The phenology observation program is an example of the ways extension educators associated with My Minnesota Woods try to package climate-related content together with content that already has a broader appeal. However, Sagor noted in response to a question, those who are engaged in local observations already report climate-related changes and are willing to engage in discussion of climate change science as a result of their first-hand experiences.

Sagor also commented that the interactive nature of the website is important in engaging the target audience. The website provides venues not only for users to ask questions, but also for them to post their own reflections on what they have learned and observed. Every page has a moderated comments feature in order to control for abusive posts. They also use a variety of methods to reach, and deliver content to, landowners who may not be thinking about forest management or the resources available through extension, including monthly e-newsletters with links to their own and other websites.

Sagor closed with a few thoughts about outcomes. The goal, he explained, is not only to increase traffic to their site and engage more users in their newsletters, workshops, and other resources, but also to increase user engagement with volunteer and leadership activities, for example, and influence their actions. To illustrate how this can work, he explained that 65 percent of the traffic on the Oak Wilt webpage comes from elsewhere on the web through an online widget that is posted on partnering sites and that allows web users to receive specific information from My Minnesota Woods. Forty-five percent of those visitors then go on to view other extension content. This is a small step, he acknowledged, that is “far removed from action on the ground,” but they have developed a framework for tracking users’ pathways, and also for identifying changes they make after participating in a program. “We try in a variety of ways to put the content where people look,” he concluded. “We are not trying to convince the skeptics, but when someone wants to go looking they are going to find it—that is the low-hanging fruit: focusing increasingly on impact, measuring those conversions, understanding how these tools are helping us get where we need to go.”

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
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A project of the University of Arkansas’s extension program illustrates another way to use internet-based resources to target messages to particular groups, explained Tamara Walkingstick, associate director of the Arkansas Forest Resources Center at the University of Arkansas. Arkansas is what Walkingstick described as a “traditional extension state.” They have two county agents in each of the state’s 77 counties, which mean they have “a massive network—it is easy to get information out there.” By law, she added, every forester, or anyone who gives advice on forest management to forestland owners, is required to engage in eight hours of continuing education on the subject every year. A network of partners, including the Arkansas Forestry Commission and the Society of American Foresters, works together to provide this education. Most of the foresters prefer to acquire their annual credits in one day, so those workshops are a primary education opportunity. “We don’t use the words ‘climate change,’” Walkingstick noted, but it is very easy to incorporate some of those concepts into programming for “this captive audience.”

The extension program is using additional methods to broaden their reach. In one example, the Invasive Species Education Project, they train forestland owners to become “first responders” who can identify new invading species that turn up in Arkansas forests. The training includes the day-long workshops and a website, and extension is developing an online course. They plan to add a statewide conference and other educational materials. Walkingstick and her colleagues encountered some resistance with respect to the online course, she noted, because some extension foresters were concerned that older forestland owners would not be comfortable with using technology in new ways. She acknowledged that may be true to some extent, but that they need to be prepared to reach younger people as well.

The Invasive Species program, Walkingstick explained, has reached approximately 80 percent of foresters who are registered to practice in Arkansas (400 individuals) who, collectively, manage approximately 3.3 million acres, or about 18 percent of the forest acres in the state. The program has also reached more than 250 Master Gardeners. The extension program uses an online survey to collect information about changes people make after using its resources, she noted. In her view, there are several keys to the success they have tracked so far. One is the partnerships they have established, and another is the energy they put into talking with the stakeholders they are trying to reach, to learn not only about their needs and problems, but also to benefit from their knowledge of local conditions.

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
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ENGAGING FORESTLAND OWNERS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN FOREST MANAGEMENT

Allyson Muth, a program associate in the Forest Stewardship Program at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU), described how the program connects forestland owners by training them to engage in extension efforts.5 The program includes a peer volunteer network, which, Muth explained, has been a useful way to introduce owners to difficult topics. The primary goal of the Peer Volunteer Program is to train woodland owners to better manage forestland and to motivate others to be stewards of forestland. The program is similar to the Master Gardener Program that many extension services have: Participants receive training over two weekends in basic forestry principles and in exchange they agree to care for their own forestland and to share what they have learned with others.

Pennsylvania has approximately 700,000 forestland owners, who own their land, on average, for 18 years. “That is a lot of turnover,” Muth observed, “and a lot of people to reach.” By engaging these owners in sharing what they have learned, she added, the program has a “multiplier effect.” This approach, in which forestland owners speak from their own experience to other forestland owners, also draws on common models of adult learning. When adults encounter new information, she explained, they tend to evaluate it in terms of how it fits with what they already know and have experienced. They may reject new information if it is in conflict with their prior understanding. Trust is also a key to acceptance of new information, she added. Research (Gootee et al., 2010) has shown that forestland owners assess the caliber and trustworthiness of new information in part based on the degree of comfort they feel with the person delivering the information, she noted. Forestland owners, like most adults, are most accepting of information that comes from someone who is like them and has had similar experiences. They may believe that information coming from a person with a degree in forestry or wildlife biology will not be accessible or useful to them, she suggested.

The program has trained more than 550 volunteers since 1991, Muth noted, and 430 are currently active. Some volunteers contribute considerable hours—in 2011, the group collectively volunteered for the equivalent number of hours that 14 full-time employees would work, reaching 36,000 landowners. This is approximately the same number that paid extension employees were able to reach, she added.

The PSU Forest Stewardship Program has focused on making sure that messages about climate change are effective, given that previous mes-

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5See http://extension.psu.edu/natural-resources/forests/private/stewardship/pennsylvania-forest-stewards [January 2014].

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

sages that directly address climate change have not been well accepted by forestland owners. They have conducted statewide surveys of landowners, reaching 100 owners in each of 66 counties. They found that owners in Pennsylvania cite reasons for owning their land similar to those found in the work described above by Butler (see Chapter 2):

  • Enjoying and sustaining wildlife–62 percent
  • Experiencing solitude–59 percent
  • Incidental ownership (the forest came with a home or farm)–49 percent
  • Engaging in recreational activities–34 percent
  • Using wood (mostly for burning)–38 percent
  • Investing into land (in part as family legacy)–14 percent
  • Harvesting timber–13 percent

Follow-up interviews and focus groups have reinforced the idea that financial objectives are not the primary concern for most forestland owners. Many have “a deep and emotional connection to the land,” Muth explained. “It reflects their relationships with other people—and sometimes protects them from others. It reflects their relationship to time, to the world, to their bodies.” Extension has taken this information seriously, Muth explained, adding that “we have gotten brave and followed them to the touchy-feely kind of thing, because owning land is not a logical proposition—it is a headache. It is a heart decision, not a head decision.”

She described how extension works to help owners articulate their own reasons for valuing the land—sometimes for the first time. This process helps extension and, in turn, guides the owners in evaluating their options, making decisions, and planning for the future. Extension focuses on good forest stewardship and the forest legacy that owners will leave for future generations. This topic has been a platform for talking about keeping land forested and mitigating change. The long-term focus has also meant supporting owners in thinking about estate planning, because turnover is often a threat to forested land. Many landowners have thought about plans for their land but fewer have written formal plans. Thus, Muth explained, the extension program conveys to the owners that good forest management means planning for changes that may come after the current owner is gone. Most landowners want to do the right thing, she added, but they do not always know what that is (Jones et al., 1995). Relating the idea of climate change to the responsibility to be a good steward appears to be helping to make difficult messages more palatable, she added.

Counties and local governments can also have a significant influence on the forestlands in their jurisdictions, explained Don Outen, natural

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

resource manager with the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability. There are nearly 3,100 counties and county equivalents in the United States, with heterogeneous vegetation and ecosystems. Some have a lot of forestland and few people; in others, the reverse is true. However, because of their planning and zoning authority, counties and local governments can have significant influence on forest resources. It is vital to engage them in the goal of keeping forests forested, in Outen’s view.

Baltimore County has had success for more than 45 years in managing growth, he observed. Although the county has very densely populated areas, “nearly half is tree canopy.” The department is not staffed with researchers, he noted, but they have focused on conveying to landowners research-based ideas about water quality and keeping forestland healthy. More recently they have folded climate change into the basic message that “all values are at risk” when forest health is threatened. Sustaining and increasing healthy forests and trees, he noted, is the most cost-effective tool for mitigating the effects of climate change. Baltimore County has identified four priorities for its forests: keep forestland as forest; strategically re-forest stream buffers, areas adjacent to existing forests, and urban areas; restore and maintain forest health; and provide incentives for and training in stewardship to the citizens who own 75 percent of the county’s forest cover.

In practical terms, this has meant such efforts as supporting local jurisdictions in complying with federal mandates related to water quality. “Clean water is rooted in forests,” he noted. “The forests are part of a strategic tool for complying with these mandates.” Outen explained that the county has at its disposal a range of tools and partnerships to address healthy forests. It has a Forest Sustainability Program, which grew out of its participation in pursuing the goals of the Montreal Process,6 an intergovernmental effort to promote sustainable forest management. The county is also part of the National Roundtable on Sustainable Forests and has been working with numerous organizations to build interest in the message about forest sustainability.

Baltimore County emphasizes the public interest in healthy forestland and has collected data on the vulnerabilities of local forestlands. Identifying the relative value of different parts of the forest, for example by identifying the patches that cover the greatest percentage of the stream system, has been important, as have data on the very fragmented nature of forestland ownership. Outen opined that the number of owners in the county is significantly higher than in most regions because of small

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6For more information, see http://www.montrealprocess.org [January 2014].

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

average parcel size: Approximately 35,000 people own more than 9,000 forest patches in the county.

A considerable issue in addressing forestland management issues is that many owners do not even recognize themselves as forestland owners, Outen noted. The county has used “large-lot, low-density development as a part of its growth management strategy,” he explained. There are many lots of five or fewer acres that are wooded. The owners may report that “I didn’t want all this land—it just came with the house,” he noted. The land may have tremendous potential, but the owners do not know what species are growing there or recognize invasive ones. Outen and his colleagues have found that these owners “don’t know where to begin and are paying a horrendous amount of money to mow their open land because they don’t know what else to do with it.”

In response, the department piloted a program called Turf to Trees, in which they used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analysis to identify 28,000 eligible parcels covering 20,000 acres, of which one-third was planted with grass.7 They established a goal of reducing “excess grass,” encouraging people to use an acre for gardening and landscaping but to convert the rest to woodland. Baltimore County identified 7,100 acres of excess grass in rural residential lots alone. This is significant not only because wooded land better protects shared resources such as drinking water reservoirs, but also because it reduces pressure on farmers who are actively using their land. “If we were able to reforest the excess lawn in rural Baltimore County,” Outen observed, “we could expand the forest cover in those areas by 19 percent.”

To pursue this goal, Outen and his colleges conducted additional GIS analysis and reached out to residents. They found that “people are really eager for technical assistance—they get the message, they just don’t know how to get there.” The county intends to implement this approach on a wider scale to help meet their objective of finding an additional 1,500 acres of forest by 2025.

Another project the department has used to address the highly fragmented distribution of forestland in Baltimore County is called Multi-Owner Patch Base Management. The department is collaborating with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to identify high-functioning patches of forest and reach out to the owners of that land. They offer to conduct an assessment of the health of the land and work with the owners to develop management goals, if they wish. For example, they might find that the forest is denser than would be optimal for its forest type, or lacking in vertical canopy

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7GIS is a method of amassing geographic data in digital form so that large volumes of data can be analyzed spatially.

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

structure. The team translates such findings into lay terms, provides ideas about how to move the forest to a healthier state, and guides owners to state and federal resources for cost sharing.

MINIMIZING THREATS TO FOREST HEALTH AND SUSTAINABILITY

Colorado’s forests are not in very good condition, stated Lyle Laverty, a former assistant secretary of the interior for fish, wildlife, and parks and now a consulting forester based in Colorado. More than 4 million acres of lodgepole pine trees have been killed by the mountain pine beetle, and wildfires in the past decade have damaged large segments of forest. These developments are the direct result of long-term stress brought about by climate change, he said. Western ecosystems, Laverty explained, developed as fire-adaptive systems, but the appeal of living in the Colorado mountains has attracted large numbers of people over the past few decades. That has changed both the ways fires develop and the human response to them. Wildfires are very common in Colorado and have become the primary reason why landowners are interested in managing their land, Laverty noted. A 2012 fire in Lower North Fork, for example, burned 14,000 acres, resulted in three fatalities, and destroyed 27 homes. A fire in Waldo Canyon in 2014 burned more than 18,000 acres and 346 homes, resulting in $353 million in estimated property damage. Overall, the fire damage in 2012 covered 400,000 acres, releasing, Laverty estimated, approximately 10 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere.

Colorado is experiencing a lot of change, he noted, both in the demographics and in the values of those who live there, and in the forest conditions that shape their lives. Historical photographs of the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana and Idaho illustrate the degree of change that has also occurred in Colorado forests (see Figures 3-1 through 3-4). At present, the western portion of the United States faces persistent and pervasive fire risk, in part because changes in forest composition have meant high concentrations of flammable material in forests. A few decades ago, a 5,000-acre fire was considered major, Laverty pointed out, but today Colorado experiences fires covering 80,000 to 100,000 acres.

Responding to fire damage is very expensive, Laverty pointed out. The Denver Water Authority spent approximately $50 million, or $5,000 per acre, to clear sediment after a 1996 fire in Buffalo Creek. “We can do a lot of good forestry work for $5,000 an acre,” he added.

Laverty explained how Colorado is working with landowners to address these problems. The challenges include establishing relationships with landowners and generating awareness of risk. In the Front Range region, for example, approximately two million people live in 800,000

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

homes that are at high risk from fire. He and his colleagues are trying to help these communities become more fire-adaptive so they are more resistant to damage and can recover more easily. Fires do provide “teachable moments,” he pointed out. In the aftermath, the benefits of working to make one’s land fire-adaptive can be very obvious if some neighbors have done so and others have not. A defensible space around a property is important, he noted, but communities that address landscape from this perspective are even better protected.

Laverty and his colleagues think about mitigating the impacts of forest fires in terms of five principles: communication, coordination among counties and agencies, cooperation, collaboration, and connection. Establishing connections is particularly important because many Colorado landowners reside outside of the state. “They may not even be aware that they are in a high-risk area,” he noted.

Boulder County, which is very progressive politically, is one jurisdiction that has focused on getting the word out to owners about fire risk, Laverty explained. The county attaches an aerial photograph of a taxpayer’s property to the tax bill to emphasize the need for “defensible space” around homes that will retard fire. The Colorado Forest Service has developed a web-based tool that landowners can use to identify the risk to their property. When owners key in the address of their land, information appears showing the risk, including potential flame length and speed. This tool is intended not only to increase awareness of risk, but also to provide information about mitigation and planning, and to motivate owners to take action.

The job of communicating with people about what can be done is critical, in Laverty’s view. Fire suppression in the western United States is costing approximately $11 million per day, he concluded, and “we can do a lot more with that than just to fly a bunch of air tankers around.” Fires are an opportunity not only to educate people about mitigating the risks, but also to show people how climate change is having significant impacts on their local areas and their lives.

CROSS-CUTTING IDEAS

In discussing the examples of communicating about forest management and climate change, several presenters noted the importance of thinking regionally, rather than locally. For example, Walkingstick noted, the invasive species Cogon grass is in neighboring states but not yet in Arkansas. “It is a huge problem that all of us are going to have to face,” she commented. It is important to move beyond boundaries that may exist among agencies and universities and focus on the ecosystem and its needs. This is difficult, she acknowledged. Labich agreed, but suggested

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
images

FIGURE 3-1 Bitterroot National Forest, 1909.

SOURCE: U.S. Forest Service.

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FIGURE 3-2 Bitterroot National Forest, 1948.

SOURCE: U.S. Forest Service.

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
images

FIGURE 3-3 Bitterroot National Forest, 1979.

SOURCE: U.S. Forest Service.

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FIGURE 3-4 Bitterroot National Forest, 1989.

SOURCE: U.S. Forest Service.

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×

that coordinating among partners that share a geographic region is critical. This may be easiest, he observed, if an organization can serve as the host and facilitate effective collaboration. Sagor added that “regional means different things in different contexts.” In Minnesota, the extension system has moved away from a county-based system to one in which a statewide forestry team divides up areas of responsibility by content (e.g., agricultural forestry, forest economics and taxation, forest ecology and management, and invasive species). There are also increasing opportunities for regional programming at the watershed level, he added. Working across states is difficult, he noted, in part because local concerns are vital for engaging landowners.

Lyman explained that a range of factors has helped motivate communities in northern New England and eastern Canada to purchase and manage forestland, and changes in the forest products industry and land ownership have affected people on a personal level. Jobs have been eliminated and cultural traditions have been affected. For many communities, the possibility of determining for themselves what will happen with their land has been a major influence. Some come to the idea through a focus on managing growth, whereas others are focused on protecting a landmark. Economic concerns—such as promoting recreation and tourism or protecting logging operations—may also motivate them to manage and protect forestland.

In response to a question about efforts to reach landowners who are members of minority groups, Walkingstick noted that Arkansas’s extension has focused on women landowners, but acknowledged that they need to do a much better job reaching out to minorities. Labich agreed, noting that though there has been very little focus on minorities in the New England region, his group bases its work on the understanding that “not all woodland owners are the same.” (This theme is further explored in Chapter 4.)

Sagor added that Minnesota has a reasonably large American Indian community and that extension has worked with the Fond du Lac reservation and other groups to understand and respond to their needs. For example, he noted, he and his colleagues have recognized that the Native American communities are very strongly connected to the natural areas in which they live, but are not generally personal owners of forestland. The ash tree is a species with a very high cultural significance in the region, and he and his colleagues have looked for ways to take that into account in addressing the problem of the invasive emerald ash borer.

Finley concluded the session by noting that many of the presentations and discussions stressed the need to understand the values and goals of forestland owners. Thus, he stated, successful extension and education about climate change and forest management requires the tailoring of messages and programs to the needs and values of forestland owners.

Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 23
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 24
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 25
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 26
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 27
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 28
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 29
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 30
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 31
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 32
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 33
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 34
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 35
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 36
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 37
Suggested Citation:"3 Communicating About Forests and Climate Change: Case Studies." National Research Council. 2014. Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change: A Workshop Summary. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18807.
×
Page 38
Next: 4 Engaging Forestland Owners: Perspectives from the Social Sciences »
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The forested land in the United States is an asset that is owned and managed not only by federal, state, and local governments, but also by families and other private groups, including timber investment management organizations and real estate investment trusts. The more than 10 million family forestland owners manage the largest percentage of forestland acreage (35 percent) and the majority of the privately owned forestland (62 percent). The Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for the stewardship of all of the nation's forests, has long worked with private owners of forestland on forest management and preservation. At a time when all forestland is facing intensified threats because of the long-term effects of global climate change, the Forest Service recognizes that family forestland owners play a key role in protecting forestland. It is working to identify optimal ways to engage this diverse group and support them in mitigating threats to the biologically diverse land they own or manage.

Climate Change Education: Engaging Family Private Forest Owners on Issues Related to Climate Change is the summary of a workshop, convened by the National Research Council's Board on Science Education and Board on Environmental Change and Society as part of its Climate Change Education Roundtable series, to explore approaches to the challenges that face state foresters, extension agents, private forestry consultants, and others involved with private family forestland owners on how to take climate change into consideration when making decisions about their forests. The workshop focused on how findings from the behavioral, social, and educational sciences can be used to help prepare for the impacts of climate change. The workshop participants discussed the threats to forests posed by climate change and human actions; private forestland owners' values, knowledge, and dispositions about forest management, climate change, and related threats; and strategies for improving communication between forestland owners and service providers about forest management in the face of climate change.

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