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Despite failure: The emergence of “new” forest owners in private forest policy in Wisconsin, USA

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Similar to other industrialized countries, the USA has experienced a significant increase in the number of non-industrial private forest (NIPF) owners as well as shifts in the values held by these owners. This study examines the motivations of predominantly new ex-urban forest owners interested in forest management in pursuing collective action through participation in the now out-of-business Sustainable Woods Cooperative (SWC). While common elsewhere, forest landowner cooperatives in the USA are an anomaly. Through a case-study design that depended primarily on semi-structured interviews, it was found that SWC members were motivated to join SWC as it was an attractive alternative to (1) the typical timber sale scenario that often places the forest owner at a disadvantage, and (2) the primary government tax incentive program. SWC represents a shift towards owners playing a greater role in shaping forest practices and markets, which is generally absent in the USA. It also suggests that new ex-urban forest owners, who are found in most industrialized countries, will seek to reshape the forest policy arena to meet their values and objectives. As such, this study provides insights for others in understanding the potential changes wrought by the changing characteristics of forest owners.

Keywords: Cooperatives; US forestry; ex-urbanization; motivations; non-industrial private forest owners; private forestry; qualitative analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Forest Ecology and Management, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, USA 2: Agricultural and Applied Economics, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, USA 3: Missouri Geographic Alliance, Drury University, Springfield, Missouri, USA

Publication date: December 1, 2005

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