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Landowner Decisions: Differences in the Northeast

Thursday, July 1, 2010
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The future of landscapes dominated by private ownership are largely a function of often independent decisions made by hundreds or thousands of individual private landowners. Most owners do not have plans for their land or avail themselves of professional advice, and instead make reactive decisions based on immediate need or circumstance. Since most owners do not receive professional advice, we studied the social networks of informal contacts around landowners as potential sources of information and advice about land. Our pilot 2008 work based on interviews estimated networks of 7-10 people, on average, around woodland owners who have made a concrete decision to either ease their land or harvest timber. A subset of those contacts (i.e., 1-2 people) were identified by landowners as important or influential to a concrete decision. This was in a state (MA) where harvesting is regulated, thus necessarily involving a forester, and with well over 100 land trusts creating a dense and vibrant network of easement expertise in the public and non-profit sectors. This summer Dave Kittredge and Mark Rickenbach (former Bullard Fellow; Univ. of WI) are working with Megan Jones and Kristen Schipper (REU students) to probe landowners and their networks in two distinctly different-but-adjacent states and policy environments:

  • VT: with no regulated harvest, essentially one land trust with statewide influence (Vermont Land Trust), and state forestry agency county foresters charged primarily with overseeing their state's current use property tax program; and
  • NH: with no regulated harvest, many state and local land trusts, and county foresters who work for UNH's Cooperative Extension System. These county extension foresters are active local educators, with proactive local programming.

Do different agency and policy contexts result in different egocentric networks, and the extent and ways in which landowners rely on informal networks for information? 

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