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Overcoming Barriers to Large-Scale Conservation

Successful landscape-scale forest conservation and management efforts must engage a wide variety of forest land owners. Recent work by Lydia Olander, director of the Ecosystem Services Program at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, and Paul Trianosky, Chief Conservation Officer at the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, has focused on ideas for improving engagement of landscape-scale conservation goals through three recent events and a proceedings.

A Duke Society of American Foresters (SAF) student chapter symposium, and workshops in Washington, D.C., and Clearwater Beach, Florida, focused on an “all-lands” approach to conservation. This approach emphasizes collaboration among all types of landowners, bringing together a diverse group of stakeholders to identify and achieve a common conservation goal.

"I’ve been in the conservation arena for over 30 years, and it’s long been my observation that the contribution of these large landowners is frequently overlooked,” said Trianosky. “The conversations we had in the workshops and in the symposium to engage landowners were long overdue. Now that we’ve elevated the visibility of the issue, we’ve generated ideas that could be taken on and fleshed out by parties that are working on those policies going forward.”

Olander and Trianosky have been building momentum toward solutions to facilitate engagement of large private landowners in landscape conservation. Last March, Olander and Trianosky, along with Eric Smith of the Nicholas School of the Environment and Andrea Bedell-Loucks of the U.S. Forest Service, held a workshop in Washington, D.C. that focused on the issue. Olander, Trianosky, Smith, and Bedell-Loucks published the results of the workshop in a proceedings.

At this D.C. workshop, a group of large private landowners came together with federal, NGO, and academic leads to identify barriers to landowner engagement relative to landscape conservation goals, including the absence of an inclusive vision for the future of forest management and limited understanding of the public benefits provided by large privately owned forests.

Participants in the workshop also pointed to a lack of market incentives to sustain these benefits.

“Environmental markets is one approach that a lot of people think has some promise to deliver value to private landowners for the benefits they provide,” said Olander. “The carbon market is one we discussed at the symposium—but landowners noted its limited applicability at this point.”

A subsequent follow-up workshop was then held in September in Florida.

While both workshops primarily focused on the engagement of institutional timberland owners, including timberland investment management organizations (TIMOs), timberland real estate investment trusts (REITs), and large family-owned forestlands, the most recent symposium was primarily directed toward a student audience.

A number of Duke Students have been involved in organizing and supporting these activities, including SAF board members Ramsey Meigs, Harley Burton, Tim Hipp, and John Burrows.

"Students provide new ideas and energy for initiatives like this,” Olander said. “The students will be moving into positions and jobs in the land trust and private landowner community, so having an understanding of e potential barriers and opportunities bring students to a place where they can move more quickly into creating solutions and opportunities for large-scale conservation.”

This story was written by Diana Tarrazo, a senior at Duke University who is working the Fall 2016 semester as a communications intern with the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions.