Social and cultural values of woodlands in Vermont, USA

What do people in Vermont, USA, appreciate about their trees and woods?

Summary

Vermont's wooded and mountain landscape

This three-month project involved group discussions and interviews with people in Vermont, USA, to find out how they valued trees and woods. The work also examined how public attitudes and use of woodlands affects how forestry and environmental organisations approach site conservation and management.

Key findings

Public perspectives

  • Personal value: forests and trees are important to the public on a personal basis as a place to enjoy nature, recreational activities and escape from every day routines
  • Economic value: awareness that Vermont’s forests attract money to the state and contribute to the state’s distinct character
  • Education: in Vermont, individuals sometimes spoke of how their parents had passed down knowledge and skills about the environment, although education was not a topic that was often raised
  • Comforting: forests in Vermont were often described as ‘comforting’ and ‘reassuring’ – they are so widespread the public seem to feel comfortable using and being in them
  • Connection: close relationship between people’s views of forests and trees, everyday life and cultural identity 
  • Timber production: private landowners were viewed as having the right to manage as they saw fit as long as there was no extensive clear cutting, but public land was valued for recreation and public access, and spiritual, aesthetic and personal well-being

Organisational perspectives

  • Urban forests: realisation that the future of forestry may involve creating forests near to where people live to deliver social and community benefits
  • Decision-making: public organisations struggle to involve the public in effective decision-making processes and are unable to build consensus among competing priorities of industry, recreation and conservation bodies
  • Cultural change: state and federal forestry bodies have moved away from prioritising timber production and now take a wider view of the benefits that forests provide
  • Conflict: while forestry organisations claim to be working for forest health and often for public interest, their focus and management objectives can be very different
  • Creativity: the variety of organisations in Vermont concerned with forests and trees often think from very different perspectives, helping to bring a range of creative solutions to their work

Publications

Funders and partners

Joint funded by the Forestry Commission, Forest Research and the Scottish Forestry Trust.

Contact

Status

2002.