Expertise, Identity, and Relationships in Private Forestry Practice

Abigail L. Jamison, Theodore R. Alter, Allyson B. Muth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In the management of private forests, it is important for a forester to understand and prescribe action rooted in sound science and technique but also in landowner values. Prior research has indicated that storytelling and sharing, which surface a landowner’s values, often result from an established, trusted connection with their forester. Empirical and experiential knowledge indicate that landowners and foresters who engage over prospective forest management often fail to create such a connection, leaving landowners feeling less trusting of the recommendations coming to them and vulnerable to the outcomes of potential unsustainable practices proposed by other actors. Such disconnect could be related to conflict between how landowners desire to engage foresters and the ways traditional forestry practice has prepared foresters. To further understand the landowner-forester disconnect and possibilities for overcoming it, this paper analyzes landowners’ interactional experiences with consulting foresters. Interviews with landowners indicated that professional and personal identities, as well as landowners’ perceptions of foresters, impacted the formation of a productive, working relationship between them. In their stories, landowners described that finding personal connections had the power to change their perceptions and catalyze the relationship. Results underscore the importance of allowing expert and personal identity to surface in order to create a relationship, informing the way in which foresters carry their expertise. This research suggests that being a forester is about being more than an expert, but also about being a knowledgeable and empathetic collaborator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)415-433
Number of pages19
JournalSmall-scale Forestry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Forestry

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