July 12, 2023
By Grace Dean
For the past four years, Kim Ingram has been listening closely to the private forest landowners who participate in her Forest Stewardship Workshop series.
During the workshops, landowners share their experiences clearing thickets of vegetation, replanting post-wildfire and tackling invasive species, and their concerns of who will take care of their forest when they're gone.
To alleviate their stress, Ingram – Forest Stewardship Education coordinator with University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources – turns to natural resource professionals from CAL FIRE, local Resource Conservation Districts, and the U.S Forest Service who can share knowledge and resources with participants.
Recently, Ingram developed a story map that aims to provide landowners with a platform they can use to share their experiences and ways that they have been empowered to manage their land.
"It's not uncommon for small forest landowners to feel overwhelmed with their forest management responsibilities and uncertain over what steps to take first," said Ingram. "Through the Forest Stewardship Workshops and this story map project, we hope to show that there is an entire community of forest landowners in the same situation, learning from each other and moving forward towards their management goals."
The Forest Stewardship Story Map team used ArcGIS StoryMaps to design the project, with 15 participants providing interviews and visual content. StoryMaps provides a user-friendly interface where website visitors can either click on a county to view specific interviews or scroll to view the stories.
The forestry team plans to interview at least one landowner and natural resource professional in every forested county in California so private forest landowners have a local contact or can become inspired by a project in their area.
‘So many options’
Theresa Ciafardoni, a forest landowner in Nevada County, said that the UCANR Forest Stewardship Workshop helped her manage postfire restoration and long-term land use planning.
"It opened up so many options and possibilities," said Ciafardoni. "All the individuals who presented in the Forest Stewardship Workshop were open to phone calls for specific questions and provided invaluable technical assistance."
Involving landowners and forestry professionals with this project was an early decision made by Ingram, who believed it was important that the map held appeal beyond hosting stories. Now, the project functions as a networking tool for landowners seeking professional assistance, too.
Past Forest Stewardship Workshop presenters shared their contact information and the motivations behind their forest management work so that landowners could find assistance in their area. The professionals currently hosted on the map include Resource Conservation District managers, UC ANR forestry advisors and private contractors.
"The most motivated landowners are invested not only economically, but their heart is into it," said Ryan Tompkins, UC Cooperative Extension forestry advisor for Plumas, Sierra and Lassen counties. "The natural world is full of uncertainty, but they're committed to continuing education and learning about how to be a good land steward. This takes a certain level of humility recognizing that our tenure as a steward on the land is a very short period of a forest's lifetime."
A working document
Looking ahead, the team envisions the map as a working document that will eventually include interviews with indigenous tribal members who focus on traditional ecological knowledge projects, interviews and information from the UC ANR Postfire Forest Resilience Program, and a feature that will filter stories by topic (e.g. reforestation or prescribed burning).
"This isn't a project that could be completed by one person," explained Grace Dean, Forest Stewardship communications specialist. "The same way that Kim and other presenters explain forest management as a collaborative process holds true for this project."
The Forest Stewardship Workshop series gives participants the ability to start as beginners and build upon their knowledge and experiences. In the same vein, this story map provides the Forest Stewardship team a solid base of real stories to add on to over time. The hope is that it will grow into a multifaceted tool reaching new forest landowners, eventually enveloping their stories within the small forest landowner community.
To view the Forest Stewardship Story Map, click here.
[Grace Dean is a forest stewardship communications specialist for UCANR.)
Source: University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources
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