Timber harvest class

Getting Forestry Information to All Types of Private Landowners

By Nate Chotlos, Alanna Koshollek and Katy Thostenson

Some people prefer to get their news from the paper while others watch TV, listen to the radio, or browse the web. Outreach materials designed for non-industrial private forest owners (NIPF) should take these preferences into account. The same information will have a greater impact if the means of delivery matches the preferred media of the intended audience. For instance, a landowner audience that reads their local newspaper each morning may be more likely to see your information in the paper, than if the information is promoted during a morning radio program that your target audience doesn’t tune in to.

Audience segmentation is a marketing strategy that groups people into loose categories and finds specific ways to effectively reach each group. A 2010 study of landowners in northeast Michigan split their sample into four groups (consumptive landowners, recreationists, naturalists, and multiple objective landowners) based on their reasons for owning land and studied the best ways to deliver forestry educational materials to each type of landowner.

Consumptive Landowners

While they place value in hunting, aesthetics, and land investment, this group is separated by their interest in producing forest products. Consumptive landowners are less likely to use forestry-related educational materials than the other landowner groups – only 42% said they have used any of these materials in the past. The most common way they found their forestry information was through publications, books, or newsletters (though only 24% of this group actually used these sources). Delivering information in a traditional paper format was still a safer bet than online resources, as only 13% of this group had used the web to get their forestry information. This group’s reluctance to learn more about forest management can be partly attributed to an attitude that their current knowledge is sufficient. Outreach messages that acknowledge their experience and prior knowledge may make consumptive landowners more willing to learn and improve their management techniques.


To this group, experiences had in nature, such as hunting, fishing, or other recreation, are more important than land investment and forest products. Only 28% plan on harvesting in the future (compared with 40% of consumptive landowners). Just over half (57%) of recreationists see print sources, online content, and field tours as useful. Other means including radio, TV, landowner organizations, and seminars are not as likely to reach recreationists. With 45% reporting no past use of educational forestry materials, there are still plenty of new people to reach in this group. Messages that highlight future enjoyment of the land distributed through print, the internet or field tours will likely work best for this group.


Naturalists own forests for the scenery, to protect nature and for privacy. They aren’t particularly interested in forest products or hunting and fishing.  Women made up 31% of the landowners in this segment, an impressive amount considering that only 15% of the total survey respondents were women. About half of naturalists reported previously using forestry educational materials. The sources valued by most naturalists included paper publications, field tours and web information (all around 62%). Additionally, conferences/seminars/ workshops (valued by 51%) were not far behind. The same communication types used to reach recreationists will also work for these landowners. However, since this is the only segment that is generally not interested in hunting on their land, a message highlighting beauty and conservation should be used.

Multiple Objective Landowners

Almost all of the ownership objectives were somewhat to very important to this group. For example, 46% of these landowners intend to harvest in the future and 71% actively manage their woods, significantly more than all the other groups. Roughly 70% of the people in this group said they have used some sort of forestry educational material in the past and they used a wide variety of communication modes. Around 70% found field tours and written materials to be useful though internet (61%), conference/seminar/workshop (58%), and TV programs (58%) are also common choices. In other words, this may be an easier group to reach. Materials designed to target other segments will work for multiple objective landowners as well, so there is little need to specifically cater to them.

Other classification systems

Some comparisons can be drawn between these four groups and the four typologies found by the Sustaining Family Forests Initiative (SFFI). Those who have attended TELE (Tools for Engaging Landowners Effectively) workshops developed by SFFI may be familiar with this other landowner typology system. Their groups include Woodland Retreat, Working the Land, Supplemental Income, and Unengaged. Some of these groups resemble those above, but none are perfectly analogous. Both landowner segmentation systems were created using similar methods but at different scales. SFFI studied landowners from around the country and created a broadly applicable framework. The Michigan study was smaller in scope but may provide insights that are more specific to the upper Midwest. More about SFFI and TELE can be found on their website.



Kuipers, B.T., G.C., S., Potter-Witter, K. 2013. Identifying appropriate communication means for reaching nonindustrial private forest landowners. Journal of Forestry, 111(1): 34-41.