Women Owning Woodlands - TELE workshop

In October, many Guild members and staff helped create (including Mary Tyrrell and Amanda Mahaffey), and participated in (Caitlin Cusack and Esme Cadiente) a rare experience – a forestry workshop run by and for women. The topic was the effective engagement of women woodland owners, and the event was led by the Sustaining Family Forests Initiative (SFFI) team at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with the support of the USDA Forest Service. Leaders and future leaders from the national Women Owning Woodlands (WOW) network shared knowledge about women woodland owner outreach. The SFFI team brought in the TELE approach, or Tools for Engaging Landowners Effectively, which uses targeted marketing principles to create strategies for reaching segments of the woodland owner population. In short, WOW-TELE was a perfect match.

Workshop participants assembled from all corners of the U.S., from Oregon to Florida and New Mexico to Maine. The agenda included interactive sessions on topics such as what the research tells us about women landowners, program design, and techniques for growing engagement. These sessions were balanced by a session on cognitive mapping, as well as outdoor and social time for digesting the rich discussion. 

As decision-makers and partners in management choices, women woodland owners have tremendous potential to influence more than 10 million family forest owners and shape the future of America’s 290 million acres of family forestland. However, women are underserved by existing outreach efforts. Only in recent years have researchers or outreach programs recognized women as a notable population with needs and characteristics distinct from those of the general woodland owner population. A few studies underscore the need to support women forest landowners:

  • Between 2006 and 2013, the percentage of family forest ownerships indicating women as the primary decisionmaker for the property increased from 11% to 22%, covering 44 million acres of forest land (Butler et al. 2016a, Butler et al. 2016b). 
  • 58% of woodland properties have at least one woman listed as a sole, primary, or secondary owner (Butler et al. in review). 
  • Women are less likely than men to harvest timber for commercial sale, manage for wildlife habitat, participate in cost-share programs, have a conservation easement on their wooded land, obtain green certification, participate in tax abatement programs, or simply get advice about their wooded land (Butler et al. in review).
  • Interviews conducted with natural resource professionals who are actively engaging with female family forestland owners indicated that “traditional” programs geared towards forest owners do not meet the needs of women, despite their interest in conservation (Huff in press).

In response to this need, the USDA Forest Service launched the Women Owning Woodlands Network (WOWnet) and the WomenOwningWoodlands.net website in partnership with extension, research, and outreach programs that serve forest landowners across the country. As this flyer explains, WOWnet supports women in forest leadership, women who manage their own woodlands, and all who facilitate the stewardship of forests. The website brings topical, accessible, and current forestry information to female woodland owners and forest practitioners through news articles, blogs, events, resources, and personal stories. 

The WOW-TELE workshop highlighted the power of the  Women Owning Woodlands network to strategically grow outreach and services for women woodland owners across the country. The Forest Stewards Guild is known among conservation partners as a collaborator, convener, and leader in place-based initiatives such as the revitalization of Maine’s Women and Our Woods program. The Guild is proud to have many strong women leaders in our membership. We look forward to helping grow the national Women Owning Woodlands network and empower women woodland owners to steward their land for today’s families and future generations.