Values, Attitudes and Perceptions of Forestry Constituency Groups Relative to Sustainable Forestry in the South
The project goal is to plan and design a regional research project in the South to determine the values, attitudes, and perceptions of key constituency groups relative to sustainable forestry. With this knowledge, communication and outreach activities can then be implemented successfully. The methodology includes contacting cooperators and conducting conferences and seminars in each state. With the success of this planning effort, each state will have the building blocks necessary to design and implement state-specific focus groups and mail surveys. With the knowledge gained during presentations, each state can then submit state or regional research proposals.
The goal of this Research and Education planning project is to provide the 13 southern states with the knowledge and methodology necessary to plan and design a state or regional research project to determine the values, attitudes, and perceptions of key constituency groups relative to sustainable forestry, forest industry, and forest certification. Several southern states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas initially indicated an interest in developing state-based or research and outreach efforts. All 13 southern states are now committed to participating in the project. Funding will allow us to meet the following objectives:
1) Determine the various constituency groups, stakeholders, and partners in each southern state interested in participating in the project.
2) Conduct a south-wide meeting and then implement state-based presentations for stakeholders and partners to provide the knowledge and methodology necessary to promote the project.
3) Assess the commitment, resources, capabilities, and characteristics of various forestry community partners and others in this planning effort.
4) Plan and design state, multi-state, or multi-institutional studies for the South.
5) Coordinate state-specific research and outreach efforts to develop a model program for states in the southern region.
We have refined the workshop program to increase its applicability to other southern states willing to participate in the program. We are in the process of recontacting participants in each of the southern states. Initially Bill Hubbard, the Southern Region Extension forester, send out a mass e-mail correspondence to all of the southern states asking them for their willingness to be a part of the workshop process. From this overture five states responded. Those states were Florida (2 individuals), South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, and Texas. From Florida, Alan Long, Associate Professor at the University of Florida and Martha Monroe, Assistant Professor/Extension Specialist from the School of Forest Resources and Conservation at the University of Florida responded. Recently, David Carter, Associate Professor of Forestry at the University of Florida has also indicated a willingness to participate. Dave Guynn, Professor at Clemson University responded from South Carolina. Terry Conners, Assistant Professor at the University of Kentucky responded. Josh McDaniel, Assistant Professor from Auburn University responded from Alabama. Jianbang Gan, Associate Professor from Texas A& M responded and has recently indicated his continual interest in the project. Bill Hubbard, Regional Extension Forester, will serve as a contact for Georgia.
Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, now participating in the SARE funded underserved landowner research project titled “Developing Strategies for Education of Underserved Forest Landowners” are all willing to participate. These main participant contacts include Joshua Idassi, Extension Specialist, from Tennessee State University and Wayne Clutterbuck, Associate Professor of Forestry from University of Tennessee, Mike Dunn, Associate Professor of Resource Economics, Louisiana State University, Bob Zielinski, District Forester, Arkansas Forestry Commission, and Sandra Ford, Minority Outreach Coordinator, Alcorn State University. Recently, North Carolina (Dr. Fred Cubbage as contact) and Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Dr. Greg Amacher as contact) have also indicated that they want to participate in the project. Only Oklahoma needs to be recontacted.
Beyond reaffirming these commitments we are seeking to expand the participant base. We are in the process of also organizing the workshop implementation through two regional conferences. We are planning two meetings, one at Mississippi State University and the other at a location in Atlanta, Georgia. We have developed a letter that is going to be sent to each key participant explaining the process. Cooperators would attend this conference free of charge since Mississippi State would pay their travel expenses. At this conference, we would fully explain the step-by-step details of the methodology necessary for implementing a similar study within each state. Cooperators could use this information to solicit other professionals in their state to participate in a similar study. Once these individuals have been selected, we are willing to travel to each state to present the methodology to all cooperators and potential personnel who would be involved in that state’s study. Afterward, each state could submit individual or multi-state research and extension proposals for funding to various outlets.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
There are a number of impacts, contributions, and outcomes that could occur from this project throughout the South. When a similar project was instituted in Mississippi, it led to a number of tangible activities. For example, the Mississippi Forestry Association (MFA) hired a Communications Director and a forestry display is being created in the Natural Science Museum in Jackson, Mississippi. The latter is a joint effort between the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP) and MFA. This is an important project because it bridges the gap between the wildlife and forestry communities and will take place in the State’s second largest tourist destination. As a result, massive financial contributions have been coming in to make this project a reality. For example, almost $100,000 has been raised from the major timber companies. Many smaller commercial and private contributions are continuing to come in. An effort is also underway to institute a license plate for MFA that highlights forestry in the state. Also, a technical staff member of the MDWFP has taken a permanent seat on the MFA’s SIC for the SFI and their Communications Committee. Other activities are also underway in Mississippi with teachers, legislators, landowners, bankers, environmental/conservation groups, and loggers who were the other groups examined in our previous study.
While implementing a similar research project in a given state a number of similar activities can take place. For specific constituency groups chosen, the process can be an informative one as these organizations may not know how their employees or members feel about specific issues related to forestry or what their knowledge levels are. For example, the MDWFP was given a third party assessment of how their own employees feel about important issues relating to forestry. If other states implement this project they will have a better understanding of their clientele needs. Therefore, these organizations can more successfully outreach to these constituency groups. Most importantly a study such as this can provide a localized baseline database on constituency groups and their relationship to sustainable forestry. Future survey efforts can then assess changes in values, attitudes, and perceptions among these groups.
For participating organizations, agencies, and universities there will be a number of publications that can also be produced from this project. The Mississippi project has produced numerous refereed and non-refereed publications. In addition, numerous presentations have been made over the last three years on this former research project.