Social networks play an important role in the communication of information among forest owners and how owners process that information in making land management decisions. This article examines variations in the social network characteristics of family forest owners using survey data and interviews with 42 owners in south-central Indiana. We examine how network structure and content vary by harvesting activity, information sources, ownership attributes, sociodemographic characteristics, and location. Quantitative measures of network size and diversity, along with a qualitative understanding of network content and function are discussed and compared for active and passive forest managers. We find that active managers (people who had a recent timber harvest) had at least twice as many social ties related to forest management compared to passive managers, particularly after accounting for parcel ownership size, forest area, and total landholding size. Learning and service were the main functions of these networks, with learning being the most frequently cited reason for talking to others regardless of the management profile of forest owners. The study contributes to a growing interest in mixed-methods approaches to network studies and research on social networks in private forestry.
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An eight-page survey was mailed to 6,733 randomly selected landowners in six Indiana counties, including Monroe and Morgan counties.
Cases were first stratified by activity and information source, then organized by county. A random number was generated for each case to help eliminate researcher’s bias in the selection of cases (Patton 2002:240).
For example, some small-scale forest owners who are generally considered active managers can go longer than 5 years between harvests.
In rare occasions alters were members of more than one group (e.g. a family member who is also a neighbor), and were assigned to the first group description (i.e. family).
For example: the proportional weight for parcel size is the product of a respondent’s parcel size multiplied by n/N, where n = 42 (sample size) and N = total parcel area for the sample (i.e. the sum of parcel size for the 42 owners). The weighted mean network size was computed by multiplying each respondent’s network size by his/her proportional weight, adding up the products, and dividing by the sum of weights. The formula is Σ(xiwi)/Σwi, where xi is a respondent’s network size and wi is the proportional weight for each ownership attribute (parcel size, forested land, and total landholding size).
Three respondents had a network size of zero and were excluded from the computation.
E19 = forest owner number; M = male/F = female.
This may be an indication of the importance of the Indiana district foresters, who have a long history of a quality program.
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We gratefully acknowledge support from the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change, Indiana University, through funding from the Human and Social Dynamics program at the National Science Foundation (grant BCS0624178).
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Ruseva, T.B., Evans, T.P. & Fischer, B.C. Variations in the Social Networks of Forest Owners: The Effect of Management Activity, Resource Professionals, and Ownership Size. Small-scale Forestry 13, 377–395 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11842-014-9260-z