Gatekeepers, shareholders, and evangelists: Expanding communication networks of African American forest landowners in North Carolina
The Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention Program (SFLR) was launched in 2012 to increase adoption of sustainable forestry practices among African American landowners in the southeastern United States to prevent land loss, increase forest health, and build economic assets. One of its main goals was to build communication networks through which African American landowners could obtain and share information about forestry practices and landowner assistance programs independent of public agencies. To measure and examine the growth of these communication networks over a three-year period (2014-2017), we conducted 87 interviews with landowners (24 of whom were interviewed multiple times), SFLR personnel, and Federal and State staff members in North Carolina. We used complementary methods of data gathering and analysis, including social network analysis and qualitative analysis. Our results showed expanding communication networks will be sustained independently of the program over time, although there is still a heavy reliance on program personnel.