Women are an emerging force for Vt forests

Women at an outdoor workshop

Women are a large and growing part of America’s landowner population.  The percentage of family forests where women were the primary decision makers doubled from 2006 to 2013.  This nationwide trend of more women owning and operating forestland is also happening in Vermont’s woods.

According to the 2013 National Woodland Owner Survey, women are now the primary owners of 20 percent of Vermont’s available woodlands, meaning there are 475,000 acres of forestland in Vermont that are solely owned by women with another 1.1 million acres that are owned by women as co-owners.

Women are now the primary owners of 475,000 acres of Vermont woodlands, and co-own an additional 1.1 million acres.

2013 National Woodland Owner Survey

According to Caitlin Cusack, a forester with Vermont Land Trust, “These statistics prove that women are certainly shaping up to be an emerging force in Vermont woodlands.”

To serve this growing demographic of landowners, the national Women Owning Woodlands (WOW) initiative was formed in 2012 and has been working to support women woodland owners and others interested in woodlands across the country.  A collaborative group of Vermont organizations recently came together to create the same network on a local level.

Kathleen Wanner, Executive Director of the Vermont Woodlands Association, stated “There’s a lot we can do together that we cannot do on our own.”

Vermont’s WOW initiative, made up of staff from Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife; Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation; Vermont Woodlands Association; Vermont Land Trust; Vermont Coverts; and UVM Extension, is working to bring women together to secure a safe, informed and accessible future for those interested in the ownership of Vermont’s woodlands.

In February of 2020, the Vermont WOW team is inviting the public to participate in a survey designed to solicit answers to important questions about women owning Vermont’s forests.  The team is looking for feedback from women who love Vermont’s woodlands or own Vermont’s woodlands to help the group develop programing, provide better technical assistance, and build a women’s network to reach out and share about our forests.

Andrea Shortsleeve, a biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, said “This is a chance to have meaningful input on how we can better help a group of landowners improve forest management, wildlife habitat and land conservation in Vermont.”

Members of the public may take the survey online at:http://middlebury.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_23NmlIA9IMaRI33.  It will take less than 15 minutes to complete. Responses are requested by March 6.

People are also encouraged to mark their calendars for June 6, 2020 to join Vermont WOW for an all-day summit packed full of learning and networking opportunities.  For more information on national WOW resources, events, workshops, blogs, news articles, and personal stories, visit their website (http://www.womenowningwoodlands.net/).

About Beth Holtzman

Beth Holtzman is outreach and education coordinator for the UVM New Farmer Project the Women's Agricultural Network.
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