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FACILITATING MANAGEMENT AND DECISION-MAKING ON PRIVATE AND PUBLIC FORESTS IN INDIANA
Active forest management is generally considered a desirable approach for both private and public tracts. While stakeholder collaboration and input are used on public lands, states have used several approaches to facilitate forest management on private forests including property tax-incentive programs, cost-share and technical assistant programs, and professional advice. Some researchers have studied how educational programs can facilitate woodland management on private lands. While some determined that the adoption of management practices can be influenced, in part, by attending educational programs, understanding of the factors that contribute to successful outcomes of educational programs for family forest owners is limited. Similarly, many federal and state agencies have used stakeholder input to inform natural resource management and policy in a variety of collaborative formats. In Indiana, the Indiana Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee has provided input into private and public forest management in the state since 2010.Using a case-study approach, this dissertation, through mail surveys and interviews, examined the role of the Forest Management for the Private Woodland Owner eight-week short course in woodland owner management decisions. Findings suggest that, across behaviors, woodland owner attitudes about and reasons for owning their woodlands were the most consistent predictors of the level of influence the course had on participants. Enrollment in the Indiana Classified Forest and Wildlands Program and likelihood of attending future educational programs were also positively associated with course influence for some behaviors while contact with the instructor after the course and owning woods for privacy had negative associations. The course played a role in different stages of the decision-making process of woodland owners to harvest timber, control invasive plants, create a written management plan, and use the services of a professional forester. Compatibility and relative advantage of a practice were important factors in adoption decisions. I also interviewed members of the Indiana Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee to investigate its perceived value to members and how they view its contributions to forest management in the state. Overall, members generally held a positive perspective of its value and thought the committee benefited Indiana’s forests although there was limited evidence to support this viewpoint. The committee followed some recommended collaborative approaches, but fell short on others. Findings inform several recommendations that could benefit the committee and its role in the future.