March 19, 2010
Extension Educator, Forestry
University of Minnesota Extension
Eli Sagor's programs are designed to help familiy forest owners make informed land management decisions. Recent projects focus on internet-based content delivery and patterns and trends in ownership of Minnesota’s family forest lands.
How has VFVC influenced the way you work?
Funding from VFVC allowed the Extension team to to reach and engage more family forest owners using digital media, through through the MyMinnesotaWoods.umn.edu web site.
The project had two aspects: background research to understand costs and what it would take to launch the kind of site we had in mind, and site development. The background research was important, because website development and management was new to us.
The site was launched in April 2007. Today it receives an average of 180 unique visitors and about 400 page views per day.
How has VFVC influenced the way forestry is viewed in Minnesota?
Family forest landowners hold about one-third of the forested land in Minnesota. Before the site, little information was available online to support family forest stewardship. The site gives them access to information from Extension, a widely trusted source. I believe both the University of Minnesota and Blandin Foundation have reputations for providing unbiased, trustworthy information – so the fact that both organizations have been involved in this project gives site visitors confidence in the information available there.
Without the technology to get research-based information into landowners’ hands, the research done at the University has less impact. Now landowners have a more convenient way to get the information they need when and where they need it.
What aspect (or aspects) of VFVC might have a lasting impact on you, your organization, the forest or the state?
For me personally, developing a tool to reach landowners in new ways opened the door being a more effective educator and communicator.
The University Extension staff recognized the need to move toward online information distribution, but it takes a lot of energy to get there. I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that the site has transformed the way we work. Before, it was purely face-to-face learning, with limited opportunity to reach landowners. Now, we’re reaching a much, much larger segment of the population.
Statewide, because family forest landowners’ decisions impact a significant amount of the state’s forests, they need to be actively managing their land. The more these people feel they have a trusted source of information, the more they have the ability to take informed action on and about their land.
How do you see your organization continuing the work that began as part of the program?
It has allowed us to expand our reach – and that will continue. Blandin Foundation support has really changed the way we work, for the better. In early spring 2010 we’ll launch a new interactive map of approved Minnesota Woodland Stewardship Plan preparers. Extension developed the map in partnership with the Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative and DNR Division of Forestry. Features like these advance one of the key goals of the site: to connect family forest owners with local natural resource professionals.
Last thoughts on VFVC, specifically, or broadly?
It was a tremendous effort that brought the forestry community together in ways that it hadn’t been in the past. From the family forest conferences to other discussions, the program helped build consensus among members of the forestry community.