The five years long research project on multi-property cooperation for forest owners has now published its final report and given its recommendations.
The title of the report is “Multi-property cooperation for forest owners in the coastal area – challenging, but with great potential” (Follo 2014). This publication presents the conclusions from the research project “From ten to one – multi-property cooperation for personal forest owners in the coastal forestry”. Prototypically multi-property cooperation refers to a management of several forest estates as if they were one, hence the title “From ten to one”. The project was funded by The Research Council of Norway, Agricultural Agreement Research Fund and the forestry industry in the counties participating in The Coastal Forestry. When “From ten to one” started, The Coastal Forestry included all forestry and wood processing industries in the counties Rogaland, Hordaland, Sogn and Fjordane, Møre and Romsdal, South-Trøndelag, North-Trøndelag, Nordland, Troms and Finnmark. Later on the county of West-Agder joined the organization. The Coastal Forestry initiated “From ten to one” in 2008, the research project began in January 2009 and ended with a final conference in April 2014. “From ten to one” was a “knowledge-building project with user involvement” with the users being relevant stakeholders in the coastal forest area. Scientific findings from “From ten to one” can also be found in Follo (2010a, 2010b) and Follo and Vennesland (2012, 2013), please see the list of references in Follo (2014). These publications are in Norwegian, with only Follo and Vennesland (2013) and Follo (2014) containing an English summary.
The project description gave the empirical basis and objectives for “From ten to one”. The empirical basis was: (1) Norwegian forest ownership is fragmented with many and small properties, more so in the coastal forest areas than elsewhere in Norway, (2) among many personal forest owners forestry competence is rather weak, (3) according to Norwegian forest policy forestry shall contribute to the climate, preservation of biodiversity, creation of economic value and maintenance of viable rural communities, (4) little has been done to adjust the structures of the forest properties, so the present structure of numerous small properties has become a basic premise for future actions, and (5) the public forestry service is being reduced. The objective for “From ten to one” was: To try various models of multi-property cooperation, give an adequate description of the conditions promoting and inhibiting cooperation, evaluate costs and benefits, and derive practical solutions and implications to the Norwegian forestry policy.
“From ten to one” followed four field projects located in and operated by the coastal forestry: The Southside-road and The Forest Rings in Levanger and Frosta (North-Trøndelag), the Ørstaforest (Møre and Romsdal) and the Feios-project (Sogn and Fjordane). In the field projects forestry actors tried to establish multi-property cooperations for forest owners. Methodologically, the research was trailing research (formative dialogue research), and the researchers sometimes collected research data from the field projects and sometimes gave feedback to them based on the research. In total 39 qualitative interviews in two rounds (2011 and 2012) were completed with forest owners associated with the field projects. A total of 54 qualitative interviews in three rounds (2010, 2011 and 2013) were completed with the field project actors.
The main conclusion from “From ten to one” is (in a Norwegian setting) that multi-property cooperation is challenging, but has great potential. “Challenging” because the field projects to a limited extent succeeded with the cooperation type they wanted to establish, a type where the forest owners cooperated with each other. “Challenging” also due to forest owners’ habit of thinking solely about their own forest, and because Norwegian laws and regulations are not adapted to the most long lasting and most formalized cooperations. On the other hand, there is “great potential” because the study showed that forest owner cooperation can address the complex combination of problems identified in the five factors that formed the empirical basis of the project. “Great potential” also because the forest owner cooperation can provide many benefits, and because forest owners’ forestry competence increases or is maintained when building cooperation. A further reason for claiming that forest owner cooperation has great potential is all lessons learned from “From ten to one,” lessons published in the final report. Had the field projects at startup known what is known today, their challenges had probably been smaller.
The contents of the final report point toward possible future action in the development of Norway’s forestry sector. The report illustrates the many varieties of multi-property forest owner cooperations, varieties which provide many opportunities for adaptation to the type of forest owner, local and regional situation, etc. Two sets of wise practice are presented (“wise” in the sense that the practices optimize the chance to succeed with the forest owner cooperation). One set of wise practices targets the selection of sites for establishment of forest owner cooperation, and the other targets practices for accomplishing forest owner cooperation.
To get more multi-property cooperation in Norway the most important thing now is to get more such voluntary cooperations. If this can be done, forest owner cooperation will be easier for forest owners and forestry actors to think of as an option and behave in accordance to it. The final report’s recommended actions are grouped under five phrases. It is “the individual’s motivation”, “wise practice”, “tools”, “forest coordinator” and “socio-cultural dissemination”. The individual must think and act under the maxim that “forestry=forest owner cooperation”. Wise practices for successful forest owner cooperation have been described briefly in the section above. The tools are manuals and financial support to the forest owner cooperation and special distribution of grants. The establishment of an organized system of forest coordinator positions is recommended, as is development and implementation of forest owner cooperations that stand as beacons for others to copy.