An Exploration of African American Forest Landowners in Mississippi



In Mississippi counties with large African American populations, forest resources constitute one of the most important agricultural outputs. Despite the efforts of natural resources extension personnel to provide educational programming to this group, little is known about their needs, concerns, and meanings of the landscape for them. Research has taken place in the Carolinas, Alabama, and Georgia; however, forests and African American forest landowners in Mississippi face unique social, historical, and ecological contexts that need to be examined. If forests and forestry programs are to provide an equitable distribution of benefits to diverse populations in Mississippi, a culturally based understanding of landowners is needed with special attention to those populations who have been traditionally underserved because of race and income. We address this need by presenting data from focus groups with African American forest landowners in several rural Mississippi counties. Findings indicate that a complex relationship with the landscape has inculcated much traditional knowledge about forest resources, opportunities and challenges to participation in programs and landowner associations, and concerns over heir property, among other factors. We discuss implications for how forestry can meet the sustainable natural resource goals and rural development needs of African American landowners and communities.