The Management of National Forests of Eastern United States for Non-Timber Forest Products
Many products are harvested from the forests of the United States in addition to timber. These non-timber forest products (NTFPs) are plants, parts of plants, or fungi that are harvested from within and on the edges of natural, disturbed or managed forests. Often, NTFPs are harvested from public forests for the socio-economic benefit they provide to rural collectors.
Social science and market research methods were used to examine the extent that NTFPs are addressed in national forest management plans, identify and explore issues that affect their management, and determine the attitudes and perceptions of forest managers at various levels within the U.S. Forest Service.
Non-timber forest products have not been considered in national forest management plans to the extent that have other forest resources. Fewer that 25 percent of the current management plans for the national forests of eastern United States address NTFPs. However, the Forest Service Directive System provides sufficient policy and procedural direction at the national and regional level for the management for NTFPs and legislation enacted in 2000 directs the Forest Service to develop a pilot program to beginning managing for these products.
Managers with expertise and education in botany, wildlife, recreation, and wilderness had significantly more positive attitude toward managing for NTFPs than did managers with a more traditional (timber-based) educational background. A regression model of intention to include NTFPs in the forest management plans was developed using data from forest managers and based on the Theory of Reasoned Action. Both attitude and perception were found to be significant determinants of behavior intention.
A common perception among forest managers is that NTFP management is not an issue of public concern. Also, managers do not perceive that the lack of management is a problem. Without a visible and vocal constituency, the impetus for change must necessarily come from within the organization. Efforts by the U.S. Forest Service to manage for NTFPs will be hampered by a lack of information and expertise. But, the activities of more progressive national forests suggest that sufficient knowledge does exist for the agency to take a more proactive approach to management.