Appalachian Voices Welcomes AmeriCorps Member

If you are one of the hundreds of landowners who requested a copy of the first edition of the Appalachian Voices sustainable forestry handbook, then you undoubtedly heard from us this summer. Our Stanback intern from Duke University, Christine Jolley, worked with Appalachian State University student Grant Crider to contact each one of you, and in August they completed a survey of users of the first edition. Now Appalachian Voices is welcoming a new staff member to take all that input and incorporate it into a new, improved, second-edition of the handbook.

Appalachian Voices Welcomes AmeriCorps Member

Appalachian Voices was recently awarded a full-time AmeriCorps member to oversee the revision and distribution of the landowner handbook. The position is part of “Project Conserve,” a cooperative effort led by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy, a land trust based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. This project is placing 20 AmeriCorps members with 13 conservation organizations and agencies across North Carolina that share the common goal of protecting our region’s natural resources through education, community involvement, and direct assistance.

Appalachian Voices will host one of these AmeriCorps members, and we have hired Benji Burrell to fill our AmeriCorps forestry associate position. Benji will oversee the development of the second edition the handbook, as well as the distribution of 5,000 copies of the handbook across the mountain regions of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Benji comes to Appalachian Voices after just completing a summer internship with the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition in southern West Virginia. As a community organizer working with communities suffering from the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining, he attended public hearings and industry meetings, and he spent months talking extensively with local residents on all sides of the issue. Benji graduated from Virginia Tech in 2002 with a degree in mechanical engineering. He loves the hills, valleys, and people of Appalachia and has spent the majority of his life exploring the region.
During his AmeriCorps service at Appalachian Voices, Benji will be leading our efforts to educate thousands of landowners about the importance and value of sustainable forestry through the creation and distribution of the second edition of the handbook. The handbook is designed to tackle one of the most important conservation challenges facing the Southeast—improving the management of private forests, which make up over eighty percent of the forestland in our region.
The first edition of the handbook, written by our former staff forester Katie Goslee and released in 2004, has enjoyed tremendous demand. With publicity for the handbook largely limited to this newspaper, over 450 landowners representing over 20,000 acres of forestland contacted our office to request the handbook, and we distributed an additional 200 copies through partner organizations. We were recently forced to do a second printing of the first edition in order to keep up with this continuing and unexpectedly high demand.

Survey Finds Handbook
Popular with Landowners

With demand for the first edition so high, we began planning for a more user-friendly and widely-distributed second edition. To find out what landowners found useful in the first edition and what was missing, we completed a survey this summer with the help of two interns. The interns surveyed 144 landowners who received the first edition.
Results were compiled in August, and the response to the first edition was overwhelmingly positive. Eighty-six percent of those surveyed said they found the information to be very informative and they would recommend the handbook to other landowners. Of all the available sources of forestry information, these landowners put the most trust in conservation organizations, county extension agents, state forestry agencies, and university forestry programs. They considered timber buyers, sawmills, and logging companies to be the least reliable.
Over half of the landowners we surveyed utilize their land for recreation, harvesting food, increasing the aesthetics of their home, and as a financial investment. Thirty-one percent utilize their woodlands to cut and sell timber.
The survey data allowed us to identify several sections of the handbook that need to be expanded, including the chapters that cover forest restoration, invasive plant species, and financial incentives available to small landowners. The survey participants also said they would like more information on conservation easements, especially guidance on who to contact and how to design an easement.
Small acreage landowners would like more specific information about how to manage their land in a sustainable way. These survey participants noted that the handbook is a great resource, but they would appreciate more information specific to smaller tracts of land. In addition, survey participants mentioned the need for more information on erosion control and stream management techniques, a high priority for many landowners in the southern mountains.
Appalachian Voices will be busy this fall making these changes to the handbook and rolling out the second edition. We are grateful to all of our members and supporters for making this project possible, and we encourage readers of the Appalachian Voice to watch the pages of this newspaper in the months ahead for news of the release of the second edition.

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