Extension to offer program for women forest landowners Oct. 13-16

University Park, Pa. -- Penn State Extension will partner with the Delaware Highlands Conservancy to offer an educational retreat for women forest landowners Oct. 13-16, called Women and Their Woods. Partially funded by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the USDA Forest Service, the workshop will be held at Camp Susque near Trout Run in Lycoming County. It will be highlighted by presentations from nationally known forest experts. The deadline to submit applications to attend is July 1.

Many women who own forest land in Pennsylvania would benefit from ecological education and support, according to Allyson Muth, program associate for Pennsylvania's Forest Stewardship Program, which is administered by Penn State.

"Throughout the Northeast, women are increasingly responsible for the care and stewardship of private forestlands because they often outlive spouses, inherit forestland from parents or just seek their own woodlots," she said. "Yet these women often may lack the confidence, knowledge and access to resources that allow them to be successful."

A survey of the children of forest-landowners conducted for the National Association of State Foresters showed that 83 percent of women polled were interested in managing their family forestland when transfer occurred, but only 34 percent felt they had enough knowledge to make forest-management decisions, said Muth.

"This puts women at higher personal economic risk -- which results not only in poor management of resources, but high likelihood of the sale and conversion of working land to a nonforest use, such as development," she said.

Other studies have shown that, for women, a major barrier to involvement with forestry organizations is a feeling of not being welcome and a perception of lacking in basic vocabulary and knowledge, which makes attending meetings intimidating, Muth said.

"Despite increased gender-equity in recent years as more women become natural-resources professionals, the field of forestry -- and the resources needed to practice it -- still is male-dominated," she said, "but faced with the need to make decisions about their land, women are seeking information in other formats."

Muth said the Women and Their Woods Program provides needed information regarding available conservation options.

"Women and Their Woods meetings offer a chance for women forestland owners to learn more about the forests they own and how to connect with other women forest landowners," Muth said. "During each meeting, women share information, ask questions, meet professionals and enjoy a potluck dinner. Everyone walks away from the event with more confidence and ideas on how to better care for their land. In addition to providing information, the Women and their Woods program seeks to instill a sense of stewardship and knowledge about the value of intact forestland."

Program participants will be given the opportunity to create a network and serve as mentors to other women forest landowners across the state, Muth said. After the retreat, attendees will be encouraged to reach out to other women landowners and share their knowledge about the Women and their Woods program in their own communities.

"The goal is for them to form regional networking groups for women forest landowners across the state," she said. "Through ongoing trainings and meetings, these groups will continue to receive the support of Extension and the conservancy."

The cost to attend the four-day retreat is $130 and covers all lodging, meals and materials. To apply before the July 1 deadline, or for more information about the program, contact Muth at 814-865-3208 or abm173@psu.edu.

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Last Updated June 20, 2011