Forest owners should focus outreach on women and city residents


Just last fall, Larry Selzer, the CEO of the Conservation Fund, gave a speech that eloquently described how timber companies, environmentalists and other stakeholders can work together. He also spoke about how the message on the importance of working forests should be reframed to accentuate that forests are infrastructure, just like highways or rail lines.

Now another influential figure who bridges the gap between the timber industry and environmental groups has issued another call to action. Amos Eno is the former executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a former official with the U.S. Forest Service who now heads up the Resources First Foundation and the Keep Working Lands Working blog.

Forest conservation runs in Eno’s blood. His great uncle was Gifford Pinchot, the first head of the U.S. Forest Service and the namesake of Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Southwest Washington.

Eno recently spoke to the Allegheny Society of American Foresters, which covers several Northeast states, and the text of his speech was posted online.

Private forest landowners should be at the heart of future conservation efforts, Eno said. In his home state of Maine, one-third of the protected landscape was set aside just a few years ago. These two projects protected 1.1 million acres through conservation easements in which the development rights were purchased.

Pingree and Downeast were 90% privately funded and these forestlands today pay taxes, support working forest jobs and send wood to mills in rural Maine. To me, these two projects, which were anathema to many in environmental circles because the land stays in private ownership and is still a working forest, represent the future of forest conservation in the U.S. We need jobs in rural America. We do not need environmental management prescriptions on every square mile of forest.

In order to succeed in a rapidly changing future, however, forest owners must adapt, Eno said. They need to:

  • Reach out to women. “The number one market audience that industrial and non-industrial foresters need to target and reach out to, and move to more understanding with, is the women of the U.S. If you are to build a marketing program such as American Farm Bureau or National Cattlemen’s Beef Association in their new Farmers and Ranchers Alliance Farm to Market initiative, I would do the same thing to promote working forests awareness.”
  • Reach out to city, not rural, residents. Eno quoted the Autumn 2011 issue of National Woodlands Magazine: “Eight out of ten Americans now live in urban metropolitan areas, and all of them benefit from forests whether they know it or not.”
  • Ensure the transfer of land to a new generation. Most forest owners are old, Eno said, on average 70 years of age. “In the next decade we are going to witness the largest transfer of land and wealth in U.S. history, and nobody is paying any attention to this dramatic, landscape changing demographic.”
  • Use the Internet. If a site has relevant content for its audience, it will get page views and be well worth the investment, Eno said.

Eno’s speech can be found here. It’s well worth the read.