Private forest owners throughout the country have access to a wide variety of educational opportunities through their local Cooperative Extension and their partners.  In New York, private woodland owners have access to education on topics that span the range of those within timber, woodlands, wildlife, water, agroforestry, etc.  These topics are available via workshops, bulletins, webinars, conferences, and trained volunteers.  So, what's the point?  The ForestConnect program is part of a broader national program coordinated through the Renewable Resources Extension Act, or RREA.

RREA developed and used a strategic plan during the recent last several years.  The outcomes of this plan were significant in that the individual state plans collectively reached 317,000 owners attended workshops attended one or more of 4,300 educational events, 5.8 million people received educationally based information, 21,000 owners have implemented at least one practice, 1.400 business were created or expanded, and owners earned or saved $190,000,000 (that's $190 million).

RREA has existed as a federal program through USDA, now coordinated by the National Institute Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  RREA has a new strategic plan that will guide the state level plans which operate under the federal plan.Ultimately the role of Cooperative Extension via RREA is to help forest and range owners make decisions that support the sustainability of private renewable natural resources. 

Here is a link to the RREA 2012 - 2016 Strategic Plan

You can read the details, but here is a summary:

  1. Core values of extension education programming guide the national and state programs.  These core values focus on providing high quality programs that efficiently and effectively help forest (and range in the west) owners make decisions that sustain renewable natural resources.  These programs use effective communication venues appropriate to the audience.
  2. There are several issues that cut across traditional interests, such as timber production or wildlife habitat management.  These cross cutting issues include: biomass for energy, climate variability, ecosystem services, fish and wildlife resources, forest (and range) food safety and security, land transfer among generations, invasive species, urbanization, and water and wetlands. 
  3. The new plan includes four goals (with subtended strategies you will need to glean from the plan)
    1. Ensure healthy ecosystems
    2. Enhance economic benefits from forest and range opportunities
    3. Enhance resource management on working forests
    4. Build capacity of the extension system through enhanced connections.

There is of course much more detail provided in the plan with the link above.  An important element is the description of an extension education program.  "Extension education programs are systematic, objective, and research-based initiatives that help participants understand the context of an issue, consider the prudence of action, and weigh the possible impacts of various management alternatives" (p. 4 RREA 2012-2016).

The strategic planning committee hosted a webinar today to describe what will happen in the next five years.  See the recording here.


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