Personal networks and private forestry: exploring extension's role in landowner education

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Personal networks and private forestry: exploring extension's role in landowner education

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Recognizing the public value of sustainable forest management on private lands, governments have invested in programs to educate and assist landowners. However, landowner awareness of and enrollment in these programs are low. Applying a basic social network analysis approach, I investigated the role of personal networks in the flow of information and adoption of sustainable forest management behavior. Based on the results of a written survey, 90% of 1767 owners of Minnesota forest land have received forestry information from at least one source including 65% from a peer and 53% from a professional forester. Personal forestry information network size ranged from 0 to 14 with a mean of 2.92. Network size was positively associated with ownership size and the number of land management activities implemented. Landowner network results confirm the important role of public sector foresters, but also suggest opportunities for increased use of peer learning techniques to engage landowners as learners. Extension forestry programs are the primary providers of landowner education nationwide. A second study investigated the ways that these programs leverage landowner personal networks for education. The managers of 39 forestry-­‐ related peer learning programs train volunteers and use other peer learning techniques to inform and educate landowners about sustainable forest management. Relative to state-­‐level Extension forestry programs, a higher percentage of peer learning programs target smaller, often underserved, landowner groups. Although program outputs and demands for service are increasing, many peer learning program managers face reduced budgets and are turning to new technologies and techniques to maintain or grow their programs. In an environment of rapid changes in both the tools available to support Extension education programs and complex issues demanding a response, the results of these studies present both opportunities and challenges for the future of the nation’s Extension forestry programs.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. December 2012. Major: Natural Resources Science and Management. Advisor: Dennis R. Becker. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 241 pages, appendices 1-6.

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Sagor, Eli Samuel. (2012). Personal networks and private forestry: exploring extension's role in landowner education. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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