People, Landscape & Communities (PLACE): Research Update
The PLACE team is studying the behaviors, attitudes, and information and resource needs of the state’s 200,000-plus small landowners, as well as the connections between these landowners and broader landscape change, in central and southern Maine. Led by Kathleen Bell, associate professor, School of Economics, and Jessica Leahy, assistant professor, School of Forest Resources, the researchers have made recent progress including:
- Informing legislation to improve relations between outdoor recreationalists and landowners. Research by Jessica Leahy influenced LD1613, “An Act to Strengthen the Relationships between Landowners and Land Users.” The team documented problems between landowners and land users in Maine and evaluated policy tools to find innovative solutions to manage these conflicts and support the role of private landowners in providing recreational opportunities, scenic amenities and other services. The researchers shared findings at a public meeting with 77 stakeholders, including legislators. The bill passed, providing strategic direction and funding mechanisms that benefit both landowners and land users in Maine.
- Helping agencies and organizations better understand landowners’ needs. PhD student Michael Quartuch, Leahy and Bell surveyed nearly 400 small woodland owners in Kennebec County in order to better understand how they’re managing their land, what information they need and the most effective ways to deliver it, and their stewardship ethics. Among the key findings: 74 percent of respondents did not have a written forest management plan, but two-thirds would either consider getting one or are undecided. Findings will be used by the Kennebec Woodland Partnership and other organizations to inform landowner education and outreach efforts. See the Kennebec County Woodland Owner Survey for details.
Over the next year, the team will continue to analyze data from this and other landowner surveys and study stakeholder engagement processes related to communication and interpretation of survey results. The team will integrate findings to improve documentation of landowner concerns and to better understand how landowners make land management decisions. They will then share these findings with policy makers, agencies, communities, business and other key stakeholders in order to help them improve outreach and service provision to Maine’s small landowners. The researchers also will use survey results to continue to develop decision-support tools to assist landowners and other stakeholders.
In addition, Bell and Aaron Weiskittel, assistant professor, UMaine School of Forest Resources, will begin to collaborate with researchers conducting similar projects throughout the U.S. and Canada as part of a National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center working group led by Bell and SSI colleague Brian McGill, assistant professor of ecological modeling, UMaine School of Biology and Ecology.
- Featured project on MPBN’s “Triple Bottom Line”
- Profile of team leader Jessica Leahy
- Faculty Expert Guides: Jessica Leahy and Aaron Weiskittel
- Media: Jessica Leahy Interview in Kennebec Journal
Supported by National Science Foundation award EPS-0904155 to Maine EPSCoR at the University of Maine.