|The idea of working with trained volunteers to spread technical information is nothing new to the Extension Service. Master Gardener and Food Preserver Volunteer programs have been present for the past three decades. It was actually an area forester for the United States Soil Conservation Service, Don Carr, who first suggested the idea of reaching forest land owners with volunteers. Carr, along with State of Oregon Service Forester, Mike Barsotti, and Extension Forester, Rick Fletcher, formed the trio committed to testing this innovative new idea.
The objective of the Master Woodland Manager pilot project was to train woodland owners to better their own properties and to have them reach and motivate non-active forest land owners. Initially this involved 85 hours of training and a like number of hours of volunteer service.
From that initial discussion of 1982 came several months of grant writing and coalition building before training of ten pilot project volunteers in 1983. A 14 member advisory committee and the local soil and water conservation district oversaw the process. Oregon State University Extension and Oregon State Department of Forestry cooperated to sponsor the training of the volunteers. By November of 1983, the Master Woodland Manager graduates were ready to put their training to the test.
After 18 months of volunteer service by these ten volunteers, surveys were sent to each of them and to the clients that they had personally visited. Survey results indicated Master Woodland Managers had contacted 168 landowners and generated 44 new forestry projects on approximately 1575 acres. This surprisingly large number considering that only 30% of the volunteer service commitment was completed.
One persistent questions was whether or not these trained laypersons would give accurate technical information. The follow up survey indicated no landowners received incorrect information, and the clients expressed overwhelming satisfaction with the service rendered them by Master Woodland Manager volunteers.
A great side benefit of the pilot project was the impact of the training on the volunteers' own properties. The majority of them indicated that the training greatly increased their management ability, with only one feeling that little personal benefit was derived. The pilot project was judged a huge success, and Oregon was prepared to launch an improved and expanded effort.
What's Happening now?
Since 1983 we have trained over 280 Master Woodland Managers throughout the state of Oregon. In a survey completed in 1998 each landowner owned an average of 190 acres of forestland. This calculated to over 20,000 acres of land under MWM management plans. Using the same average, there would be over 53,000 acres of land in MWM management plans today. An added benefit recognized in the 1998 survey was that MWMs often donated many more than the required 85 hours of volunteer time. The average MWM donated over 200 hours of service, which amounted to nearly 21,000 hours of volunteer service in the first 15 years with an estimate of about 56,000 hours donated to date. The 1998 survey also showed that MWMs had over 68,000 contacts with clients since the programs inception.
Master Woodland Managers are very active in their local communities and are leaders in forestry in Oregon. Volunteers pay back hours include projects such as; providing support for understaffed extension offices, share in the Forestry Extension Agents load of visiting landowners properties and assisting them one on one, providing field tours on their properties for fellow landowners, youth groups, college programs and extension tours, assisting forestry extension agents by teaching courses in areas such as forestry taxes and passing on your woodlands, assuming leadership roles in organizations such as the Small Woodlands Association, working with the state legislature to influence forest laws and policies and working with Forestry Agents on research projects.
The Master Woodland Manager program has been very successful and a foundational program in Forestry Extension for twenty years. The MWM volunteers have added valuable expertise and horsepower to Forestry Extension and have greatly increased our reach into the forestry communities in Oregon. It is said that the best compliment is replication. The MWM program is replicated in many places through out the United States, in Canada, and in many other locations throughout the world.