Making private forestland outreach stick in Michigan

Michigan’s Forestry Assistance Program is enhancing active management of non-industrial private forest lands throughout the northern half of the state with the help of conservation districts and private sector partners. The grant initiative is administered through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD). Through the program, conservation districts can receive financial assistance to hire staff foresters, who in turn, provide private landowners with critical education resources and one-on-one technical assistance on local forest health issues.

But before the Forestry Assistance Program found success, it had to overcome its share of obstacles. For years, the state had relied unsuccessfully on similar models to increase staff capacity and private forestland management. But the funding was unreliable, and many professional foresters believed those models put private sector businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

During one period, Michigan had no forestry outreach program, despite an obvious need. At that time, Lori Phalen worked for a local conservation district office. “We continually had folks with woodlands calling our office and asking for assistance,” she said. “It was frustrating. They weren’t getting the help they were looking for.”

State agency leaders pulled stakeholders together, and through a collaborative process drafted language to protect private sector interests as well as allow for additional private forestland outreach. Read more>>>

Forestry Notes Q&A: Victor Harris, Minority Landowner Magazine

Victor Harris has over 30 years of experience in forest management. He was an area forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry, then joined the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources as head of engineering services and was later promoted to assistant state forester for administration.

In 2005, Harris began publishing Minority Landowner Magazine, which chronicles the challenges and successes of minority farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners across the country. The publication’s mission is to provide information that will help landowners improve productivity, increase profitability, and maintain ownership of their land.

Harris also serves as an outreach consultant, designing and producing minority landowner forestry and agricultural workshops nationally. He recently served on the Woodlands Committee of the American Forest Foundation and is a past board member of the Conservation Trust for North Carolina. Read more>>>

Watch: State Forest Action Plans webinar

The Joint Forestry Team (JFT) recently hosted a webinar on how state forestry agencies use State Forest Action Plans to assess natural resources and develop strategies for improving forest health, wildlife habitat, and water quality as well as reducing wildfire risk. Some states use public input to identify priorities for private landowners, tribes, communities, and other groups.

This is the second in a series of webinars hosted by JFT, whose purpose is to make recommendations that result in coordinated, interagency delivery of forestry and conservation assistance. Its members include the U.S. Forest Service, NRCS, the National Association of State Foresters, and NACD.

Watch the webinar here.

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