Developing Strategies for Education of Underserved Forest Landowners

2002 Annual Report for LS01-129

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $169,875.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:
Glenn Hughes
Mississippi State University Extension Service

Developing Strategies for Education of Underserved Forest Landowners


A multi-state research and education effort is targeting underserved forest landowners in the south-central United States. This effort has three phases; small focus group sessions to gauge landowner perceptions about sustainable forestry, an extensive mail survey to gain information on forest landowners in participating states, and half-day workshops to promote sustainable forestry topics. Focus group sessions have been completed. A mail survey was developed, distributed, and is currently being analyzed. Six workshops have been conducted in 4 states, with an average of 80 people per workshop. The remaining workshops will be held before September 1, 2003.

Objectives/Performance Targets

This multi-state project has specific research and outreach objectives with the overall goal of enhancing sustainable forest management on lands owned by traditionally underserved forest landowners. For this project, an underserved landowner is defined as one who has not utilized the various federal, state, or local resources available for technical assistance, cost-share, or education.

Specific research objectives include:

1. estimate the number and additional socio-demographics of individual forest landowners in various underserved categories (i.e., race, gender, age, education, tenure of ownership, acreage owned, ownership objectives, others);

2. assess landowner attitudes, perceptions, and use of sustainable forestry practices (use of management/marketing assistance, regeneration of harvested areas, and knowledge of Best Management Practices (BMPs); and

3. determine the most effective means of stimulating the involvement of owners in educational programs, resulting in changed behavior.

Specific outreach objectives include:

1. utilize our research results to develop, conduct, and evaluate educational programs (workshops) in the south-central region to address the needs identified by underserved landowners;

2. develop an evaluation methodology to evaluate the short-and long-term effectiveness of these workshops for underserved forest landowners; and

3. utilize research and evaluation results to produce a “model” workshop for use in other regions.


This project promotes sustainable forest management through thee distinct phases: the first phase is a series of focus group sessions in cooperating states to acquire qualitative information about forestry issues important to underserved audiences. The next phase is the development and distribution of a mail survey, based upon input from the focus groups. This will provide more quantitative information on underserved forest landowners, socio-demographic information, use of various forestry assistance programs, and other information. The last phase involves conducting workshops in cooperating states to reach underserved forest landowners.

The first phase is complete. Three moderated focus group sessions were held each in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. Each focus group session was moderated by the same person, recorded on tape, and transcribed. Information from the focus group sessions was used to develop a mail survey.

The second phase consisted of a mail survey to landowners in Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Six thousand mail surveys were sent to randomly selected landowners in approximately 25 counties in each state. We have received over 1800 responses. Currently we are entering the information from these mail surveys into a computer for analysis. We anticipate completing this analysis by June 1, 2003.

The third phase consists of workshops in cooperating states. We have conducted 3 workshops in Tennessee, 1 in Arkansas, 1 in Louisiana, and 1 in Mississippi. Several workshops are scheduled for the next two months, and the last workshop will occur before September 1, 2003.

Each workshop requires the development of a local planning committee. This committee is important in helping plan, promote, and conduct the workshop. MSU personnel meet with the local planning committee to identify the reason for the workshop, review results from prior workshops, examine workshop agenda topics, and begin planning for the upcoming workshops. A packet of material is distributed to the committee that contains publicity information including draft news releases, letters to landowners, bulletins, letters to churches, and other publicity suggestions. Sample agendas are included, as are Teaching Objectives for several of the agenda topics.

Workshop topics can vary somewhat, but most consist of the following agenda: 1) Introduction, 2) Landowner perspective, 3) Ownership Issues, 4) Marketing and Environmental Issues, and 5) Economics of Forestry. The workshop concludes with a 20-minute question-and-answer session.

Each workshop participant receives an information packet on sustainable forestry topics. This information varies from basic ownership information (why a will is important), to more specific management information (regeneration, economics, thinning, prescribed burning, marketing, sources of assistance, other topics). Each state has its own Best Management Practices Manual, and the appropriate BMP Manual is included in the packet. BMPs are addressed at every workshop.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

There are several outcomes from both the research and outreach components of this project. The focus group sessions resulted in a detailed mail survey. This survey will provide us with new or updated information about forest landowners. The mail surveys will allow agencies to better reach underserved landowners with appropriate messages.

To accomplish the mail survey and adequately publicize the workshops, we committed significant financial resources to purchasing tax roll information. This information was used to identify forest landowners, and all landowners with 10 or more acres of forestland received a letter inviting them to the workshop. This proved critical, as most workshop participants indicated they learned of the workshop through direct mail. While critical to the success of the mail survey and workshop, purchasing the tax roll information will have even greater utility in the future as a database for advertising upcoming forestry educational programs.

A total of 480 people have attended the six workshops conducted to date, for an average attendance of 80 people per workshop. Because we have only recently begun the workshops, we have no evaluation summaries at this time.


Stephen Grado
Associate Professor
Department of Forestry
Mississippi State University
P.O. Box 9681
Mississippi State, MS 39762
Office Phone: 6623252792
Thomas Monaghan
Extension Professor
Department of Forestry
Mississippi State University
P.O. Box 9681
Mississippi State, MS 39762
Office Phone: 6623253905