- Kittredge, David B.
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
There are several reasons why managing forested landscapes at ecosystem scales is advantageous. Natural disturbance, pest or pathogen movement, habitat, migration, hydrologic and nutrient cycles, and genetic transfer all occur across multiple spatial scales. In landscapes where small, private forest ownership dominates, ecosystem- based management is challenged by (1) small ownership parcels and a lack of cooperation or even communication between owners, and (2) a tendency of many parcel owners to not consider the role of their property in the context of the broader landscape and ecosystem. This condition is potentially exacerbated in settings where absentee owners live great distances from their land and are possibly less involved with its care. Private forest landowners in the United States have largely not accepted for their individual properties the traditional forest management model promoted through various public and private programs (e.g., management plans, cost-shared management practices). As a possible step toward promoting an ecosystem-based approach to management for private owners, we suggest an information sharing opportunity between owners, resource management professionals, and others at multiple-property scales facilitated by the Internet. ACORN (A CoOperative Resource Network) has been functional for a 2,900-km2 area of two adjacent watersheds in Vermont for 16 months. We report progress-to-date, in terms of site development, marketing, maintenance, and monitoring. More than half the woodland owners who visit the site have never participated in any other program designed to inspire good management. More than half the woodland owners do not live in Vermont, and they control roughly 50% of the private forestland. We believe an Internet-based approach has significant potential to reach many owners, either absentee, or who have not availed themselves of traditional programming.