Empowerment and Incentivization for Forest Management

Mar 11, 2024

Empowerment and Incentivization for Forest Management

Mar 11, 2024

Social Media Summary

Protecting California's forests and building climate-resilient communities and ecosystems requires forest landowners, managers, and natural resource professionals to actively engage in stewardship. UC ANR's Forest Stewardship Education Initiative provides practical forest management information and hands-on skills to small forest landowners throughout California's forested communities. Since 2020, 100 landowners who attended a 9-week Forest Stewardship Workshop series, have had an initial site visit with a Registered Professional Forester or engaged other natural resource professionals to walk their land, discuss their objectives, and identify activities that will help them reach their goals to improve forest management. Together, these landowners manage over 10,000 acres in California.

The Issue

The operational environment for managing forestland in California is challenging, especially for the ~75,000 forest landowners owning 10 or more acres. Current infrastructure and resources tend to more positively support large or industrial forest landowners. Survey data of Forest Stewardship participants identify cost, time, and lack of a qualified workforce as the biggest barriers to implementing forest management activities. Providing forest landowners with the tools they need to develop a management plan, engage a resource professional, and apply for cost-share funding, will help eliminate barriers to implementing their management goals, and address threats to California's forests, such as increasing wildfires and droughts due to climate change.

How UC Delivers

Since 2020, 485 participants have completed 24 Forest Stewardship Workshops across the state. The workshops are offered through a hybrid learning style involving online learning assignments, nine weeks of evening zoom meetings, and one in-person field day to view various silvicultural methods and build hands-on forestry skills including inventory, mapping, and plant identification. Additionally, we focus participants on drafting sections of the California Cooperative Forest Management Plan (CCFMP), which can make them eligible for state and federal cost-share programs. Just over half of registered participants (53%) had received information or advice about managing their land in the five years before taking the workshop. Weekly workshop sessions are led by local resource professionals and UC experts. Connecting landowners with these professionals and their neighboring landowners, empowers them to act.

UC Blodgett Forest Research Station Manager Ariel Roughton demonstrating hand tools for removing tree seedlings

After completing the workshop, landowners are eligible for a free initial site visit, paid for by the program, with a Registered Professional Forester (RPF), Certified Range Manager (CRM), or California Certified Burn Boss. By covering the initial site visit cost (an $800 value), we remove a barrier and incentivize landowners to continue moving towards active forest management. Goals of the site visit include:

  • having landowners engage a natural resource professional on their land and walk the property;
  • discussing landowner's management goals and objectives;
  • providing preliminary advice around those stated goals and objectives; and
  • engaging in conversations that could lead to a working relationship, including the development and implementation of a formal management plan and application for cost-share funding.

“Those forestry workshops have been huge for me. You know I didn't know what I didn't know, and to be able to get an understanding about the issues I should be thinking about, some of the topics that are current and how to approach managing this forest, it's a big responsibility.”

 “I really appreciate the knowledge, time, and approachability of all of the experts that participated in the presentations. Thank you for bringing this group together and offering this resource.”

The Impact

Since 2020, 100 participants managing over 10,000 forested acres have had site visits through the program or engaged directly with their local Resource Conservation Districts or Natural Resource Conservation Service office. In interviews with forty of these participants, we learned that 45% are in the process of developing or have completed development of a management plan, 38% have established an on-going working relationship with their resource professional, and 21 applied for and received funding through a cost-share or grant program. Participants also reported increasing collaborations with their local Prescribed Burn Associations, Fire Safe Councils, and neighbors.

Across the range of management activities that forest landowners can take, attitudes and perceptions increased positively (pre-workshop to post-workshop) for prescribed fire (42% to 66%), fuels reduction (65% to 98%), tree thinning (40% to 88%), and timber harvest (15% to 41%).

Thinned forest stand

Pre-post workshop survey data from 2020 to 2023 also shows a change in attitudes around the importance of developing a management plan (29% pre-workshop vs. 92% post-workshop); and communicating or consulting with CAL FIRE (7% pre-workshop vs. 64% post-workshop) or other natural resource agencies (30% pre-workshop vs. 82% post-workshop).

Empowering forest landowners through an increase in knowledge and skills, connecting them to natural resource professionals in their communities and providing incentives to become more active stewards of their forests, leads to improvements in forest management, increased forest resilience, and an overall improvement in climate-resilient communities and ecosystems.


By Kimberly C Ingram
Author - Forest Stewardship Education Coordinator