Organisational perspectives in Vermont (USA) of the social and cultural values of woods

Interviews were undertaken with representatives from diverse organisations in Vermont. These were chosen because they were able to give an overview of the current forestry situation in the state and to raise issues they considered to be important, relating to both public and private forests, how they were managed and for what purposes.

Professionals were interviewed from the:

  • National Community Forestry Centre
  • Northern Forest Centre
  • Vermont Land Trust
  • Forest Watch
  • Greenleaf Forestry
  • Vermont Family Forests
  • Vermont Council on Rural Development
  • Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation
  • US Forest Service.

Key issues raised

There is an increasing realisation between forestry and environmental professionals in Vermont that the future of forestry may involve creating forests near to where people live, particularly in more urban settings. As one forester explained ‘small forests are a big deal’.  If these forests are a resource for communities and if they provide a sense of ownership to people then they can  have an important impact on local communities.

There was also an acknowledgement or realisation that in many ways state and federal organisations in Vermont are often still having difficulties involving the public in any sort of effective decision-making processes. One of the things that state and federal organisations find difficult is that there is no single agenda which they can tap into; rather, they have to deal with the competing factions of industry, recreation and conservation bodies.

State and federal forestry bodies in Vermont, like the Forestry Commission in Britain, have undergone cultural change within their respective organisations, with a move away from a focus dominated primarily by timber production objectives to a much wider view of the benefits that forests provide.

The institutional framing of issues surrounding the forests in Vermont is extremely important. While the organisations in this research all claim to be working for forest health and often for public interest, their focus and management objectives can be very different. What is clear is that the variety of organisations in Vermont concerned with forests and trees often think from very different perspectives and can bring a range of creative solutions to their work.