Bridging the Gender Gap in Forest Stewardship

Northern Bobwhites. Photo: Cheryl Johnson/Audubon Photography Awards

ForestHer NC has reached 1,000 people across the state, empowering landowners to better manage their land for birds and wildlife.

By Ben Graham

This article was originally published by North Carolina Audubon.

When Louise Belk inherited her family’s 70-acre farm in Wayne County, her dream was to one day hear Northern Bobwhite on the property again. The fields have been cultivated for generations—Louise's great great grandparents are buried on the property—so she knew any restoration would require in-depth habitat management expertise. But she didn’t know where to turn.

Louise Belk and her family at their Wayne County farm. Photo: Louise Belk
Louise Belk and her family at their Wayne County farm. Photo: Louise Belk


That changed at a Wake Audubon chapter meeting in Raleigh, where Louise heard about ForestHer NC. The workshop series aims to bridge the gender gap in forest stewardship and is the result of a collaboration between Audubon North Carolina and many partners, including N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission and N.C. State Cooperative Extension.

To date, the program has reached 1,000 people. For participants like Louise, ForestHer is a chance to connect and learn from experts, most of them women foresters and biologists, including founding board member and Audubon Biologist Aimee Tomcho.

Louise remembers the first time she walked into a ForestHer workshop. “I was stunned to see so many women in the same situation as me,” she says. “We’ve all been soaking everything in. I’m learning so much about soils, invasive species, you name it. It’s really fun for me because I love nature and gardening, and it’s also laying the groundwork for the restoration of my farmland.” 

When the pandemic struck, ForestHer NC organizers acted quickly to move programs online. Now the workshops are broadcasted live and available to an even wider audience.

"The great thing about ForestHer NC is the comraderie that we're building, even as things have moved virtual," says Tomcho. "So many women are looking for ways to connect and share expertise about the wildlife in their own backyards."

More women than ever before own forestland and are making decisions about its future. While ForestHer NC events are designed for women landowners, anyone interested in learning more about wildlife-friendly land management is welcome. For upcoming workshops, visit the ForestHer NC Facebook page or Audubon North Carolina's event page.