Oak Conservation and Restoration on Private Forestlands: Negotiating a Social-Ecological Landscape

Knoot, T. G., Schulte L. A., Rickenbach, M. 2010. Oak Conservation and Restoration on Private Forestlands: Negotiating a Social-Ecological Landscape. 45: 155-164.

This paper focused on assessing the ecological and social factors that affect oak regeneration in the Midwest-Driftless area of the US. After concluding that a high percentage of landowners rely on the advice and recommendations of forest and land-management professionals, the authors interviewed a selection of these professionals in order to gauge what type of recommendations they were giving , what their perpspectives were on the oak-restoration issue, and what the ecological and social constraints are that determine how a land-owner makes a management decision.

Basically, there aren't many incentives for land-owners to choose management options that favor oak regeneration--even though most land-owners seem to express a natural preference for oaks. The financial inputs and longer-term management plans, along with the associated aesthetic impacts (clear-cutting seemed to be one of the main recommendations for promoting oak), deter a land-owner from going down that road. These social factors, in addition to ecological factors which naturally favor the later successional forest types, have resulted in difficult future for oak forests in this area.

There were a few issues I would have liked to have seen addressed. They are operating from the assumption that oak forest is the restored site and that the later successional forests, by implication, are a degraded site, yet there is no discussion about what the ecological characteristics/benefits of the later succesional forest types are...it's just assumed that it's a step in the wrong direction. Also, they specifically chose to interview individuals from different areas of forest/land management (different organizations, public, private), but they didn't provide any sort of analysis as to whether there were differences of opinion between these different groups--I think that would have been interesting to see, along with some measure, if possible, of the strength of the role these different groups of professionals might play in the decision-making process of the land-owner. Finally, although they made a point of saying how many of the interviewees had been in forestry/land-management for 20+ years, there was no discussion as to whether their recommendations were actually the most appropriate recommendations.

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