Community Forestry Education in the Swan Valley, MT: Contributions of Northwest Connections' Field Program
As the community forestry movement matures, a question remains regarding what kind of educational experience nurtures and inspires people in community forestry? This thesis seeks to contribute to a better understanding of community forestry education by examining a field educational program known as Landscape and Livelihood (LL) offered by Northwest Connections, a small community-based conservation organization in the upper Swan Valley of western Montana. Based on extensive interviews, observation and the authors own personal experience as a former LL student, the thesis documents the programs use of field ecological studies involving both scientific and local knowledge integrated with journaling, homestays, and involvement in Swan community activities such as fuelwood gathering and citizen science projects. Analysis of interview data was informed by key concepts and concerns from popular, place-based and process educational theories. The results suggest that the LL program contributed to students gaining a more nuanced understanding of and appreciation for rural people and their forest-based connections, knowledge and livelihoods, and a greater sense of joy, hope, and inspiration for participating in conservation related activities in the future. Swan residents who participated as homestay families gained validation of their local knowledge and role as community forestry educators and also experienced joy, hope and inspiration for the future as a result of their interaction with students and the LL field semester. The thesis concludes on the possibilities generated by LL for community forestry and lessons for community forestry education more generally.
Advisor:Jill Belsky; Steve Siebert; James Burchfield
School:The University of Montana
School Location:USA - Montana
Source Type:Master's Thesis
Keywords:college of forestry and conservation
Date of Publication:01/30/2008