Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
The University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention (SFLR) Program is a part of a project that recently received national recognition. The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment) announced the national SFLR Program as a 2018 recipient of the Secretary’s Awards for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships. UAPB is one of eight SFLR project sites nationwide that provide legal assistance and educational guidance on sustainable forestry practices to African-American landowners.
According to an Endowment press release, the award, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development in partnership with the Council of Foundations, recognizes innovative partnerships that focus on housing and community development for low- and moderate-income families.
The SFLR program is a partnership of the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service and USDA Forest Service. It was launched in 2013 as an effort to aid African American landowners in turning their forested properties into economic assets.
To date, the program’s eight project sites operate in seven states and serve more than 800 landowners who own a combined 68,423 acres. The program helps ensure that this land will continue to belong to its historical landowners.
“The SFLR program at UAPB aims to provide African-American landowners in Arkansas with the resources and support required to resolve common heir property issues, as well as sustainable forestry education and technical assistance in forestland management,” said Dr. Henry English, head of the Small Farm Program at UAPB. “The program has reached out to landowners in seven counties in southwest Arkansas.”
Dr. English said the project is designed to build relationships between landowners, UAPB and participating partners to resolve heir property issues and increase the sustainability and profitability of privately-owned, rural forestland. In addition to attending educational workshops, landowners can receive one-on-one assistance to assess the status of their land and identify the concrete steps they should take to improve it.
Through participation in the forestry stewardship program, landowners receive a management plan that addresses all aspects of growing timber on their property. This includes soil type, growth potential, harvest cycles, wildlife habitat, threatened and endangered species, forest health and historic sites on the property.
“Landowners commonly underestimate the value of their land and decide to sell their acreage before considering the benefits of keeping and maintaining their land,” Dr. English said. “We want them to realize the value of properly managed forestland, as it can be used as an investment to produce income for future generations.”