Privately-owned forests comprise 58% of the forestland in the United States, are a major source of forest products, and an increasingly important source of environmental and social values. Increasing demands for values, goods, and services from the static or declining supply of private forests give rise to significant social, economic, and environmental policy issues. In this course we will examine private forests as components of social systems and ecosystems. We will use primarily a sociological perspective, but will also draw on the disciplines of ecology, economics, and law. We will consider all categories of private forests, but focus mainly upon nonindustrial private forests.
The course is divided into classroom and experiential learning components. In the classroom portion of the course we will develop an understanding of private forests, their owners and current issues through lectures, reading, writing, and class discussion. In the experiential portion of the class students will learn directly from private forest owners, on their properties and in meetings with forest owner organizations. Each student will develop a case study of a private forest ownership, organization, or issue. Data will be collected through personal interviews, participant observation of relevant activities, field visits, and through analysis of secondary sources such as newspaper accounts, family histories, and archival materials. In the final weeks of the class students and forest owners will share what they've learned from each other in group presentations and discussions. This is a graduate level course entailing considerable reading, writing, participation in class discussions, and a substantial field research project. The class will meet for one hour and 50 minutes each Tuesday and Thursday. The class will be of use to students interested in private forestry, social aspects of forest resource management, conservation of mixed-ownership landscapes, and forest policy. Highly motivated upper-level undergraduate students are welcome to enroll with consent of the instructor.