A Study of Cooperative Ventures Addressing the Needs of Forest Landowners in Southern Appalachia


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Virginia Tech


Globalization, specialization, decentralization, and urbanization are changing social, economic, and ecological conditions for forest landowners throughout the United States. One possible response to these new and recurring challenges is economic cooperatives, an old idea being retooled and reapplied, keeping more of the power, control, and profit generated by natural resource extraction and management in the hands of private forest landowners and local communities.

Detailed case studies were carried out on four cooperatives in the Southern Appalachian region. The objectives for this study were: 1) to develop a set of potential criteria/attributes/dimensions/benefits by which these cooperative ventures can be evaluated, 2) to document and understand what mechanisms, institutions, and people will contribute to the success of these cooperatives, 3) to document and understand what obstacles stand in the way of these cooperatives, and 4) to illustrate these findings using four case studies and summarize results in key challenges and keys to success. The four main criteria developed to assess the success or potential success of landowner and business cooperatives were economic feasibility, social feasibility, community enhancement, and ecological sustainability.

The results of this study show that cooperative forestry endeavors such as those studied here are reaching out to forest owners missed by traditional service providers and outreach programs. They emphasize a different set of services coming from a different set of trusted sources and can build community capacity, improve ecological qualities, and enhance local economies; however, professional forestry, state and federal governments are only marginally involved with cooperative ventures. Additionally, nine key challenges that forestry cooperatives need to overcome were identified, and twelve keys to success defined.



Decentralization, Non-Industrial Private Forest Owners, Cooperatives