Family Forests - More than Just Trees
April 8, 2013
Video will appear here.
TranscriptMalka Pattison: Good afternoon. I'm Malka Pattison, and I'd like to welcome you all to the Office of Policy Analysis seminar for April. Our guest today is Tom Martin, president and CEO of the American Forest Foundation. Tom is going to focus on something we all too often overlook, private forests that make up the vast amount of our forested lands. He's going to investigate with us how these private lands could play a bigger role in the benefits of forests and what we can do together, across the boundaries, in making our forests safer against pests and other invasive fire and negatives. Tom?
Tom Martin: Thanks, Malka. Thanks, gang. Great to be back in this room again and to be back over at TOI. My former professional responsibilities, I spent more time here. These days I'm down the street at USDA more. It's fun to be back at my cultural home. First, who the heck is the American Forest Foundation and what do they do? We work on the ground with landowners, policymakers, and educators to help people be better stewards of their land. We give folks tools to manage their land in better ways, for better long term outcomes. To do so, we run a couple of programs. First, the American Tree Farm System, which many of you may have heard of, 80,000 people managing to international standards of sustainability. It is the largest family forest certification system in the world, and we manage, through them, about 27 million acres.
Secondly, we have Project Learning Tree. Project Learning Tree's an environmental education program. It's in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, couple of the territories. We take 30,000 educators a year through at least a one day training. Each state has a committee that takes the materials that are produced nationally and correlates them to the state's standards so they actually get used in the classroom.
We've done a project with BLM in the past on forest fire and how you can be more fire wise, but ensuring that it was correlated to the right grades, to the right standards, and that teachers were actually trained to be able to deliver it. Finally, we do an awful lot of place based conservation work around the country, particularly with private woodland owners. Let me start by setting the context for why the heck forests are important. If you think about the environmental benefits forests give us as a country, it's absolutely astounding.
Clean water, half of Americans get their drinking water off of forested landscape. Clean air, according to the EPA, depending on which one of their reports you want to read, forests sequester 12 to 15 percent of our annual carbon emissions. If we managed them a little differently, it would be closer to 20 percent of our annual carbon emissions. Wildlife habitat, statistics out of this department indicate that 80 to 90 percent of the threatened and endangered species spend at least part of their life on a forested landscape. Incredible recreation opportunities and a million good paying rural jobs.
Our forests are an essential part of rural America's quality of life, but they're under real stress. There's a perfect storm of things that is hitting forests as we talk right now. Malka mentioned pests and pathogens. There are 1,000 pests and pathogens that are doing damage to our trees across the landscape. If you walk through Colorado, one of my favorite places to go, what the mountain pine beetle isn't killing, the spruce budworm is. It's an amazing change, rapidly, in our forests.
The mountain pine beetle, which has done such a great job on the lodgepole there, has decided that maybe it likes ponderosa pine as well. If you go out to Mount Rushmore and stand in front of all those faces, you'll see these trees hooked up to a pheromone that's supposed to keep the beetle away, because now it's decided it likes ponderosa pine. In Canada, it's decided it also likes jack pine, so it's going to eat its way through their boreal forest.
It has been so significant there, mills have closed that have depended on those forests for years, because they've lost well over a million acres to the mountain pine beetle. That's an enormous stressor. Catastrophic fire. Change in climate is driving catastrophic fire. As you folks probably know, we're not talking about a prescribed fire and those kinds of things. We're talking about burning the organic soil. Looking to replant trees is not a seasonal activity. In too many places, it is a generational activity, before you can rebuild the organics to be able to regrow trees.
Flooding on the Mississippi River a couple of years ago. Drought in Texas. You can still see the tops of trees from multi years of drought. You've got our forests, who provide all of these environmental benefits to us, and you've got incredible stressors on them. What are we going to do about it? First, you've got to understand our forests are interconnected. There is no way to protect federal forests without protecting state forests, without protecting private lands. They're interdependent. The poor, bloody pine beetle doesn't know the difference between federal lands or state lands or private lands.
Fire doesn't know the difference. Unless we're managing in an all lands kind of capacity, I know that's something this department has talked about, all of our lands are in danger. First, they're interconnected. Secondly, who owns America's forests? The single biggest chunk of America's forests are not owned by the federal government. They're owned by private landowners. In the aggregate, those 11 million people own more than all of the federal agencies put together. If you're going to think about a forest policy and conservation work on the ground, you've got to find a way to get those people into the game.
Who are these folks? What do they think? Let me spend just a couple of minutes talking about who they are, because I think it drives a strategy for how we can engage them. First, they're old white guys. The average age is 65, and while there are an increasing number of women that are woodland owners, most identify the prime owner as a guy. Secondly, about two thirds of them have had some college education. Less than 20 percent make $100,000 a year. You know that old saw about "land rich, cash poor"? That's these people.
You look at the land, you say, "Boy, they must have a lot of resources." Quite often, they don't have a lot of cash flow. They hold onto their land forever. You buy that piece of heaven and you don't want to let it go. Over half of them have held their land for 25 years or more. If you talk to a family landowner or a woodland steward about their land, inevitably you hear about their family. Ask them about their land and they'll tell you, "My granddad bought this parcel here. I'm going to do this with my grandkids there."
There is this incredible emotional tie that for many of these folks is driven by a sense of inter generational stewardship that really reflects their culture and their goals. About 53 percent own 100 acres or more. That's pretty significant. From a commercial management point of view, you need 10 acres or more to be able to really effectively, economically manage your land, do active management. 53 percent own 100 acres or more, and that's a parcel you really can, economically, do adaptive and active management on.
Why do they own the land? Beauty and aesthetics is the first thing. Secondly, privacy. Third, passing their land on to their heirs is one of the stated reasons they own their land, that sense of inter generational responsibility. Fourth, protecting nature. It's interesting. Their set of values that drives their ownership aren't a lot different than any other American's, but they do have that personal passion for their land. One of the interesting things is we think of these woodland owners often as managing for timber value, to be able to cut timber.
The truth is, only about 10 percent of them see that as the primary value. Now, more of them cut than that, but only 10 percent see that as the big driver. It's well down the list. That's who they are. That's why they own their land. What do they worry about? It isn't a lot different than federal managers, in some respects. Top of their list, pests and pathogens. They're deathly afraid the bugs are going to eat or the pathogens are going to kill the trees that they've worked so hard to do. Remember, forestry is a multi generational bet.
You plant a tree, your grandkids are the ones who are going to be cutting that tree, in a lot of instances. They're worried about that. They're worried about fire, they're worried about taxes, they're worried about ice storms, and they're really worried about, "Do my kids love this land as much as I do?" That's who they are, that's why they own their land, and that's what they're afraid of. The other thing that I would just say is really difficult for these folks. remember, low cash flow, land rich, cash poor.
They worry that the income they get from their land doesn't sync with the expenses they have. Every year, they pay taxes, they pay insurance, they do maintenance on their roads, those kinds of things, and every 20 years, they harvest and get some income. The lack of being able to line up your annual expenses with income is a real problem for these folks. Often, grandma goes to the hospital, son or daughter goes off to college, they've got a big bill, that'll drive their management strategy more than thinking long term about their land, because they've got to line these things up.
What do they do on the land if that's who they are, that's what they're scared of, that's the values they have? The landowners, remember, 10 percent manage for timber value, but about half of them actually cut during the 25 years they own the land. That's actually a good thing. With what we're seeing with drought, fire, pests, and pathogens, unless you're doing adaptive and active management, frankly your forest is really at risk. Having these folks actually going in and thinking about what I'm going to do with their forest during the period they own it is a good thing.
The good thing is that half of them are thinking, at least once during their tenure, of what they're doing on their land. The bad news is, well, why do they do it? They do it to improve the quality of their woods, they do it because the trees are mature, they do salvage logging, a big ice storm or a blow down, and they do it because grandma went in the hospital. Those are the things that drive them. They aren't as thoughtful about thinking about integrated, long term management, and that's an opportunity for us I'll talk about in a minute.
Six percent of them have used a cost share program, but that's 20 percent of the acres. The larger family landowners are the ones that are using the cost share programs. You've heard about forest certification, getting your management certified as being sustainable, one percent of them, four percent of the acres. We've got a lot of an opportunity to work there. Two percent have easements. Two percent. You get all these benefits from forests, right? You've got all these threats to forests.
You've got the biggest chunk of America's forests, and these folks don't have an easement, they're not in a cost share program, and only about four percent of them have a written management plan. Four percent. 15 percent have ever talked to a natural resource professional about the management of their land, and half of them cut. How does that gap get made up? All too often, it gets made up by some guy with a logging truck going by, knocking on the door and saying, "That's money out there. I'll pay you, and I'll take care of your woods for you."
All too often, they high grade them, so that they take the best trees out of the woods. Instead of putting in place a long term, sustainable structure for the woods, they take out the best ones and create, often, generations of damage there. We've got a threat and we've got an opportunity there. Traditionally, what we have said to landowners is, "We can help you make more money off your land." The people that have talked to private landowners have been forest products companies, until about 20 years ago, and they started laying off what they called outreach foresters.
State forestry agencies, until the last four or five years, when they laid off all their outreach foresters. Extension, they've had a similar kind of trajectory, and state forestry associations have had a similar kind of trajectory. Those are folks that we used to come to folks and say, "We can help you manage better to make more money off your land." Through that, we've gotten 80,000 folks. Tree Farm System's made the same pitch for years. We're stuck at 80,000. Why are we stuck there? Because only 10 percent see timber as that number one driving value.
Most of them think it's beauty or whitetail bucks or something else. That is a key challenge for us. The second thing we do is, because we're well intentioned and we know a little bit, we want to tell folks what to do with their land. "Here, you ought to do this." People don't respond very well to that. They know what they want to do with their land, or at least they think they do, or at least they aspire to want to know what to do with their land, but they want to do it on their terms.
We've pitched the wrong thing and we pitch the wrong way, because we've told them the outcome we want them to start with, and they just go, "Talk to the hand." We've not been very effective. Finally, the traditional places that have reached out to these forest owners are disappearing. Those outreach foresters and all the places I talked about just aren't there anymore. You guys know what the budgets look like for the coming two, three years. There's not going to be more of them, there's going to be fewer of them.
That crisis, frankly, I think, offers us a heck of an opportunity. It gives us an opportunity to meet land owners where they're at and move them along the line to better stewardship. What do I mean by that? We know what their values are. We know what they care about. If we approach them and say, "We can help you meet your goals in a way that harmonizes with the landscape you're a part of," and often one they're quite proud of being a part of, then they'll listen. You can engage in a conversation that, over time, helps them be stewards that contribute towards the health of the landscape.
I want to tell you a little bit about a project we're doing, jointly, with a number of federal agencies. And how to do that. In two areas of the country, the drift less area of Wisconsin, that's the southwest corner of Wisconsin. They call it drift less, because it's unglaciated. Out there, that's a big deal. 93 percent private landowners. The other place we're doing it is in southeastern Mississippi. They call it the Piney Woods area. What we did is, in both of these areas there are a whole variety of folks that want to talk to private landowners. I'll talk about Wisconsin.
You've got the Kickapoo Woods Cooperative, who want folks to join their cooperative. You've got the State Forest Agency, who wants people to join their tax program. You've got the NRCS, who wants people in the cost share program. You've got Trout Unlimited. They want cooler streams, so the trout do better. All of these folks are already on the ground working. Together, they get about one percent of the landowners to raise their hand. Then, they follow up. If you care about fish, you may or may not see anybody who cares about fish, who follows up with you.
We came to the folks and said, "Let's try an experiment." We all read, after this last election, about the Obama campaign's micro targeting. What these companies know about us and our spending habits, our attitudes, our values, is absolutely frightening, folks. So let's put it to good use. We've taken micro targeting and worked with that to try and identify, meet people where they're at. Do they care about white tailed deer? Do they care about migratory birds? Do they care about fishing? How the heck do you figure that out? The good news, from all this big data is, it's pretty easy to figure out.
You can build models that let you know what pitches people are likely to respond to. We were able to move the response rate from the one to two percent these groups were getting together, to 12 percent in the first pass alone. Use micro targeting. Figure out who the people are. Figure out how you can met them where they're at. Then you use social marketing techniques. Not social media, although that may be a part of it, but social marketing. The kind of stuff where they're trying to get you not to smoke or not to litter.
It's using marketing to change people's behavior for social good. There's a whole set of rules and formulas about how you get people to change their behavior. We appended that learning onto it, to say, "If they care about white tailed deer, here's what's likely to move them towards betters stewardship." The next thing we did is, we took all of these partners in this coalition and we trained a bunch of them to be peers, peer counselors for folks. If they care about white tailed deer, we don't send out the Trout Unlimited guy or gal to go see them.
We send out somebody who can talk white tailed deer hunting and habitat with them. We met them where they are. We figured out who they are. You gave them a pitch that's comfortable to them. And the cultural touch is from somebody they give a rip about, somebody they feel comfortable with. That's a piece. And we created a transparent database that all of the partners can look at and see, one, is everybody doing what they promised to do, in terms of follow up? Two, who are they assigned to follow up with, to move them? And three, how are we doing overall? So that everybody can keep score.
For the drift less area, we set very clear ecological goals around oak regeneration. It's traditionally a big oak area. We're also working on migratory bird habitat. Those were our two ecological indicators. In Mississippi, as you might suspect, the restoration of traditional long leaf pine stands is a big part of what we're trying to do. That obviously ties to a number of threatened and endangered species. That's a piece. We can figure out, much more scientifically, how to meet people where they're at and motivate them to raise their hand and say, "I'll do something. I'll become a better steward.
I'll get a conservation easement. I'll sign up for a farm bill program. I'll become a partner of a National Wildlife Refuge. I'll get a management plan." Indicators of betters stewardship. That's a piece of it. The second thing is, focusing on people at the right time. You own land for 25 years. As it turns out there's certain times in people's life cycle of ownership they are more able and more open to engaging in a discussion about their management, when they first get the property, when they inherit it.
The first three or four years, they're much more open about thinking about, what do I want to do. When they want a cut, they're much more open about thinking about what they want to do. When big tax bills are due in some states, they save up taxes because you're in a tax deferred program. Those are things that open people's minds to the possibility. They can think about managing their land differently. Meet them where they're at and meet them where they're ready. That would be these second piece that I would advise folks.
I'm happy to say that we're putting together, even as we speak, a national database of landowners that's appended with this kind of data, and that has social marketing templates ready to go. For conservation partners, I was just up in New England this last week. We're working with the New England Forestry Foundation, the Massachusetts and Connecticut State Foresters on forest restoration work in their area. We're going to use these techniques and this database we're putting together to get folks there. We're working with Trust for Public Land on our norther forest piece.
Again, private landowners are key to that. That's across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. These are tools that are going to be deployed soon, in helping with a series of other conservation efforts, as well. Our belief is, we're not going to be the organization that does all this work on the ground. What we can do is help an agency or conservation groups who need to engage landowners more effectively. We can give them the tools to do that. Because we've done the big, up front investment in appending the data, the actual application of it is relatively cheap.
You meet them where they're at. You meet them when they're ready to act. Then you get them to act. But then forestry, again, is this weird deal. You plant the trees now and you don't muck with them for maybe 20 years. How do we keep people engaged for that period of time? There are a whole set of tools. This department actually has some wonderful ones. The friends groups that you have, the buffer area kind of work that you do around, I know I'm not supposed to use that term, federal lands.
Where you engage neighbors and, over time, invite them to workshops, invite them to cookouts, those kinds of things. We've created a set of online management tools that has prompts that people put in for themselves, that keeps them engaged in their land, putting together to do lists for their land. Giving them tools to talk to their neighborhoods and their family about their land and what they care about. All of those are important. One of the things that this department has a real opportunity to do is keep that ongoing commitment to stewardship going.
Finding ways to engage folks that are outside the federal boundary, but are essential to your success, because of the interdependent ness of forests. Forests are vital to our ecological and economic heath. Forests are interdependent. Biggest chunk of America's forests is owned by these landowners. They've got the right values to be better stewards, but we haven't been giving them the right pitch at the right time.
We've got the opportunity to change that. I would suggest, if we don't change our behavior and get to them soon, that weak link in our interdependent forest system puts all that we manage at risk. With that, Malk, I'm happy to take any questions, comments. People could throw things.
Malka: How about now? I've got it. I have new instructions. We're going to put you on screen. When you ask a question, please stand up. The camera man's going to get you. If you could say your name, if you could say your affiliation and articulate your question, we'll alternate between those in the room and those on the Internet. Let's start from the room. First question?
Stosh Virgil: Stosh Virgil, with the National Invasive Species Council. I was hoping you could speak a little bit to your Free The Trees program, and also, I think you might be part of the continental dialogue on non native forests, pests and diseases. But also, it would be nice to get a little sense of how you're working with other state foresters and feds on invasive pest issues.
Tom: Invasive pest issues are some of the most insidious and difficult challenges that we have. The first thing. I'm happy to say, I was up two weeks ago, in Ottawa. The chief of the US Forest Service was meeting with the Canadian chief. Gosh, it turns out we share a forest. Who knew? They were talking about things they could do together, to have a greater impact on forest issues. Are there things, if we do them together, can they be better, quicker, faster and cheaper? Because they have the same budget issues that we do. One of the top issues that was discussed was the need to work together on invasive species. The first thing that they identified is, some of them are already here. That's one set of issues. But a lot of them aren't here yet. Can we have better protocols at all of our ports, in all of our entry points, where we're learning from each other, we're enforcing things in a consistent manner. Because the bugs or pathogens don't know where to go. It was heartening to me that they wanted to go a step further than the sharing of information that they've done today, to having a more collaborative strategy about that.
The bad news is, forest agencies don't cite who does what inspection at the ports. That creates another issue. At the very least, it was nice to see that focus on keeping the next stuff out. Secondly, many of our folks are engaged in citizen science programs for some of these species and pathogens. If you catch them early, you can actually control them. For others, frankly, the bugs are out of the barn. You can slow their spread, but the ability to get rid of them entirely is probably beyond us at this point. I own a couple hundred acres with my sister in Wisconsin. The Emerald Ash Bore is a county away.
I got all these beautiful Ash, and I think we'll be taking these out in the next year, because I don't want to be a vector for my neighbors, and I think there are some of those that are pretty difficult. APHIS over in the department of AG which is working on these issues got hit very hard in the sequester. For a whole variety of technical reasons they got whacked harder than, in reading the paper about one or two percent cutbacks, you might have thought. They got hit very hard.
I think a inter agency, interdepartmental support for the work that they're doing around detection, control, and eradication, is really going to be vital. All of us, I think, have a stake there. The final thing is continuing to keep this at a high level in policy makers minds. People go out, they see Colorado, they see the front range, they go, "Oh my God, that's horrible," or they go to Mount Rushmore and they ask what the pheromones are, and they go, "Oh, that's horrible."
I don't think there's an understanding at the policy level in this country of just how dire the situation is, and how much of our forest land base is at risk. It was daunting with me to go through with my forest. I have mixed hardwoods forest in Wisconsin. We started to go through the trees, and, "Oh yeah, Emerald Ash borer," "Yeah, they're going to take care of the Ash." Asian longhorn beetle, "Oh, my hard Maple's are going, my Oak in danger," "Oh yeah, sudden oak death." Something that ran through, and I have a monoculture of Ironwood, or something miserable like that left in my forest.
It is a key issue. I think the things that landowners can do is one, we can manage our property well, and second, we can act as some eyes and ears out there in citizen science stuff. I do think citizen science does two things for us. One, it gives us information we might not otherwise have, but it gives people a sense of efficacy, and stake in the game, so that they are more likely to show up at a town hall with a member of Congress, and talk about how important the issue is. I think there's a bunch of reasons to do citizen science, and will continue to push it with our folks.
We actually are bringing in a number of our leaders, our volunteer leaders, they're coming in with state for stores in a month, and the number one issue that they're going to be talking about jointly as they meet members of their delegation is the need to continue to pay much in higher level of attention to invasive's. I hope that's responsive.
Man 2: We have a question from the Internet. What does the federal government consider a privately owned forest? Are there a certain number of acres required, and is there any place to go to learn about definitions like that?
Tom: There is, a privately owned forest has to do with ownership, not size. The forest service breaks it into two types, large landowners which are timber investment management organizations and real estate investment trust's primarily. Plum Creek is an organization you might have heard of, it's those level folks. Then there are folks that own much less land than that. For most purposes, it's below 10,000 acres that they define family forest, but like everything else in government, it depends where you use the definition. There is something here called the Family Forest Owners of America Survey. For those of you that are interested in this, the forest service does this survey every five or six years. The latest one is over at OMB as we speak, and so it may come back out at some point. They never change anything, they just apparently need to look at it long enough. You folks at DOI are smart enough, you don't send your reports over there to be reviewed by OMB, but USDA does. It's 10,000 interviews with landowners, so there's state by state data that's really rich.
It's attitudinal, it's demographic, and it's behavioral, so it's a really rich database, and they have a nifty little CD in the background if you don't want to work on it off the website, which is sometimes a little slow. You can slice and dice the data there, but it's a very informative tool, and, again, the new one should be out as soon as OMB releases it, this year perhaps.
Malka: Any questions from the room? [silence]
Malka: I need roller skates. [laughter]
Ken McGraw: Hey there I'm Ken McGraw, I work with the office of policy analysis. A question about what your organization does, or what your experience is currently with the demand side for products from sustainably managed forests. Do you work to develop that demand? What's the status in terms of that, because you got the both sides there, and bigger demand would probably increase the interest on the supply side as well.
Tom: Absolutely, this is a terrific question. We believe very much that good management takes good markets, and we have seen a collapse in the forest products economy in many parts of this country that folks assume can bounce back when housing starts come back. The truth is, the industry is no longer a fully integrated industry, you got landowners, that's one class. You got loggers, as another class. You got Mills, that's another glass. Then you got end customers, and that's another class. What's happened is it used to be somebody was in all four spaces at once, and so they could grow, contract, grow, contract as the markets change. What happened, because the industries become disaggregated, the weakest link in the chain are loggers. You don't make a lot of money. It's dangerous, and the equipment cost a good million bucks. A lot of the loggers in this country can't get a bank loan for the million bucks, so frankly our ability to gin it backup, as some would suggest could happen, is somewhat problematic.
I'd say, "Yes, there are issues with markets, there is issues with the market structure there." The second observation I would make is that the most obvious market for the expansion of wood products is into commercial buildings. You think of wood in houses, you sometimes think of it in a low rise shopping center, or something like that. Well, around the world, they're using would to build 30 and more story buildings.
There are new technologies for wood, where the wood is in fact stronger, more flexible, cheaper, and a heck of a lot more environmentally friendly than steel, concrete, and the other things that were used. In Vancouver, they've got a 30 story one going up. They're designing one now in Chicago that's that way. Only about four percent of the materials going into those buildings now comes from wood. All the life cycle assessment work that's done, that takes a look at wood versus concrete, versus steel, things like impact on water, impact on solid waste, and impact on carbon shows that wood is by far preferable.
Sadly, while the building codes have recognize that, the US Green Building Council which runs the LEED system, great idea, how to build better buildings. They have not been able to figure out how to deal with wood, versus concrete, versus steel in their standards. If you're an architect, and you go to them, and you say, "I want to build a building. I want to make the most environmentally responsible pass. Well, I want a platinum standard." If you say, "OK, I want to do the best steel possible," it tells you that. "I want to do the best concrete possible," it tells you that.
"I want to do the best wood possible," it tells you that. It never gives you the tool to figure out, "How to I integrate over all having the smallest environmental footprint?" It's a real problem with the LEED standard, and one that's really vexing, because the science is out there to do it. The politics within the US Green Building Council have just prevented them from doing it, so we work on that as well. The third piece that were working to try and get markets involved is local wood.
I was just up in Vermont over the weekend and they have a big local wood initiative, and in fact the state gives grants for working lands market development, really interesting. You've all heard of local food, well they're beginning to do local wood up there, and I think that that's another opportunity as well. Why is it important to have those markets in place? It's probably obvious, but I'll beat the dead horse. If you want to combat pests and pathogens, you got actively manage your forest. If you want it to be resilient against catastrophic fire, you got to manage your forest.
If you wanted to be resilient against flooding, you've got to manage your forest. Letting nature take its course, 50 years ago might have worked just fine, these days with climate change stressors, frankly you're not going to get the long term results you want from your forest unless you're actively thinking about, "What is it that I want from it?" and managing your forest to get those kinds of results. That takes money, markets can provide that. Frankly, as you all know, governments are not going to, so if markets don't wear in a world of hurt.
Man 2: We have a question from the Internet. How many acres, or what percent of American forests are covered under an HCP, a safe harbor agreement, CCAA, and focused on managing for T & E species?
Tim: Yeah, I don't know. Not many. It's an issue that is really interesting in how it's received, and it's really regionally seen as different, it's viewed differently. You talk in the South about it, and the overwhelming majority of landowners just go nuts. In other parts of the country they're pretty interested, and they want to manage for it. It is a perfect argument for doing the demographic micro targeting, so that you can meet people where they're at, and instead of assuming, "Hey, this is good for you," a lot of them assume it's just a precursor to regulation and, "Fidel Castro will get up every morning and call them and tell them how to manage their land." Meeting them where they're at, affirming their values for their land, and helping them find a pathway that is appropriate for that land owners values and culture is the key to getting more of them to do it. I'd say that we've not been as successful there as we need to be.
Laurie Williams: Laurie Williams, with the National Basis Species Council. How do you see your private forest owners responding to either someone else coming onto their lands and doing a survey, either trying to figure out what are basis species there, or other things, or doing the monitoring themselves and reporting it, so that you can manage in an integrated way?
Tim: I think there is a natural level of suspicion about it, about someone else coming on their land. That these in particular is something that it's important, again, to meet them where they're at, go with a trusted emissary. In the places where this has been most successful there's usually an endemic set of community leaders that help create the cultural and emotional space. Remember, a big chunk of these landowners on their land primarily for privacy, and you're asking them to become less private, which runs against their core belief. Most folks do have this deep pride in their land, and they have pride in their stewardship of the land, even if they're not actively stewarding it. It's kind of interesting. One of the ways to best get at them around that, is a call to action that plays on that pride, and their place in a larger landscape that they're proud of. If it's in the driftless area of Wisconsin, great. If it's the crown of the continent, terrific. HBut helping them do that. But again, I think you got a start by validating their values, and their love of their land.
Then, you need to provide whatever assurance you can that this isn't the first step to regulating what they do on their land. It's amazing, most of these folks, if they're told to do something that they were going to do anyway, just bloody well won't do it. If they see an opportunity to be a better steward, and they see it themselves, their passionate about it, and they want to tell their neighbors. It's how you approach them, and how you talk to them, and you're never going to get all of them. There's that group that cares about privacy and is driven by that, and I just wouldn't spend a lot of time banging my head against their fencepost.
Man 2: We have another question from the Internet. Could you say a little bit about what American Forest is doing for climate change adaptation strategies to foster future forests?
Tim: First, we believe strongly in active in adaptive management. The world that forest exist in, that ecological world, is changing so quickly, so unless you do that you're not going to get all these benefits we want from forests. Frankly, that runs against all of us who read the Lorax, and were taught, "God, cutting a tree is a horrible, bloody thing." There's a sense of that, you go through after you've seen a cut, and you kind of go, "Ooh, that's ugly," and it is. There is a cultural resistance to active and adaptive management. Even if you intellectually say, "This is better for you on the long run." There's that cultural piece we've got to overcome, and I think all of us, as land managers, have to help people better understand that sometimes actively intervening in the forest gets them the ecological results they want, and leaving it alone will destroy them. That's a first piece. I think the other kinds of things that we need to do around climate change are, we need to provide some simple tools for landowners.
I've got this land, don't give me a complex paper that tells me about how my stand dynamics, and this soil, and that soil. Give me some simple tools of things I ought to be looking for, a simple checklist. The Chequamegon Nicolet Forest in northern Wisconsin is one of the leaders in climate change adaptation strategies in the forest service. We're working with them to create a landowner tool that will allow them to look at their forest and provide simple kinds of things that they ought to look for that then build into a decision and action tree for them.
The trick is, it's got to be accessible, it's got to be lined up with their values and their goals for their land, and it's got a help them meet their goals. It's interesting, you know "climate change," those words are politically charged in some parts of the country. If you talk about invasive's, pests and pathogens who've changed their routes, or had longer seasons, catastrophic fire, drought, all those stressors most of it would think about being associated with climate change.
If you talk about those impacts, everybody listens. If you talk about climate change, some big chunk of folks turns off. One of the things I'd recommend to all of us is we talk as much about the impacts of climate change without the political gloss that some people find excluding them, and so I'd say that's another piece.
Malka: Any questions from the room? I'm going to ask one, if I may? The difficult of engaging private owners, is it less so in capturing the benefits, the water purification, the biodiversity? Or is it less so in, "Let's see what we can do together to avoid the pesticide, the pests, and the pathogens?
Man: Yeah, I think the two are inextricably linked, because we're never going to get the first ones unless people change their behavior to actively manage in a thoughtful way. 56 percent cut, so we've got an opportunity to talk to them about active management, but, at this point, only 15 percent are talking to a natural resource professional. When they act in a way that will have an impact on clean water, and those other environmental benefits, we've got to use that as an opportunity to get them to think about the other things that are impacting their land over time. From my perspective, it really comes back as that's not an either/or, it's much more, "How do you find, then meet, in a place that allows people to think about actively and adaptively managing their land over a long period of time, and being clear with themselves about their goals for the land?" Too many landowners, "I'm just here, and I'm enjoying it," aren't giving the opportunity to ask themselves the question, "Well, what is it I like about the land, and what is it that I want to have here 20 years from now, or 40 years from now?"
Letting them go through that exploration themselves I think is key. We've got a website that we think in the early tests shows may do some of that. It's not an information based website, it's much more of an exploration website to help newer landowners identify their goals for their land, and then create some stuff, it's called mylandplan.org, and we're finding that that's a tool that lets landowners come to those conclusions, and think about those trade offs themselves. For me, that's the place it [inaudible 50:13] .
Man 2: We have a question from the Internet. Could you talk a little bit about managing old growth forests, and preserving the benefits that are provided by that old growth integrity?
Man: Yeah, one of the things in our management standard for the the American Tree Farm System is high conservation value force. You need to have a protection strategy for those things. The truth is that trees die and they die at some point in time. The trick is, if we're going to support multiple values out of a forest, having a management plan that's designed for that and figuring out how to have the management plan that's designed to integrate the protection of old growth forest, along with ensuring that there is enough new forest coming along that there will be something to promote that. Sometimes that takes an investment, sometimes that takes some harvesting. Other times, it doesn't. What we ask people in the management plan is, you've got to, you won't meet the standard if you don't manage for high conservation value aspects of your forest. But as you think about it, think about how we create that forest for the very long term. In the abstract, it's very hard to answer, because every forest is different. What we think makes sense is, again, being clear about your goals and active management may be leaving your forest alone for 40, 60, 80 years.
But that means monitoring it along the way so that if a new pest or pathogen moves in, you can figure out how to deal with that. If you have a horrible ice storm that causes incredible damage, and for some reason isn't helping regeneration, you should think about how do you intercede to make sure that that forest gets replaced. Tough to answer in the abstract, obviously important in any particular stand or woods that people have.
Malka: Any questions? Well, thank you very much, Tom. It's been a pleasure learning about the majority of the forest.
Tom: We have some propaganda here, Malka, that I'll put over near the door. Pass around. Here you go.