Oregon's family woodland owners manage close to 4.5 million acres – or 40% of all private forestland in the state. They make substantial contributions to local economic, social, ecological and recreational services. Building community networks among such a diverse group is a challenging task for Oregon's many forestry agencies, institutions and nongovernmental organizations.
It takes coordination and buy-in from multiple sources to support stewardship and provide woodland owners with opportunities to learn from experts as well as from each other. For 35 years, Oregon State University Extension Service’s Master Woodland Manager program has provided extensive training from experts for volunteers who then support their peer woodland owners.
The program’s participants get at least 60 hours of training in exchange for 60 volunteer hours. They learn technical forestry topics that can ensure better management of family forestland. Master Woodland Managers gain knowledge and skills related to:
- Forest planning and management.
- Timber harvesting and marketing.
- Watersheds and fish.
- Business aspects.
In a recent survey, the majority of Master Woodland Manager graduates reported that active management of their own property increased after completing the program. They also often complete forest management plans while going through training, setting them up for future forest management planning success.
Not only is the Master Woodland Manager program improving the lives and properties of participants, but it is benefiting local communities as it fosters networking and collaboration and hones volunteer leadership skills. In turn, graduates work to advance forest landowner networks in their local communities by educating, taking on leadership roles in forest landowner organizations and in community science projects. The program creates lifelong relationships for many of its participants, strengthening local forestry communities.
In 2022, volunteers in 18 counties reported almost 3,400 hours of educating the public, family forestland owners, youth, watershed councils and other organizations.
More than 600 volunteers have been trained through the Master Woodland Manager program. Statewide 80% of Master Woodland Manager volunteers remain active past their required service commitment, with some now serving as long as the program has been in existence. For some, the program carries a prestige and reputation for objectiveness that provides landowners with the knowledge needed to work confidently with professionals, policy makers and their peers.
As one volunteer said, “The knowledge I gained by taking the Master Woodland Manager training gave me the confidence to serve on local boards and committees, as well as enough confidence that I can intelligently express my concerns, problems and solutions.”