Clemson professor gets grant to work with minority rural landowners

A Clemson University professor, who is working towards greater environmental health for local residents in the state, has received a fellowship to continue his work with landowners in South Carolina.  The fellowship is from the National Audubon Society and is known as the “TogetherGreen” Conservation Leadership Program.  Dr. Joseph Drew Lanham of Edgefield, SC, who is a professor of Wildlife Ecology in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Clemson, plans to educate and provide technical support to minority landowners throughout rural South Carolina. Dr. Lanham has named the project “The Color of Land” and will research the relationship people of color have with their property. The goal is to assist these landowners in better conserving their land for future generations. 
According to Lanham, “That ‘TogetherGreen’ Fellowship has funded me to go out and do essentially grassroots research to try and understand how African-American landowners, rural landowners, are viewing their land from a conservation perspective and how they view the land from a historical perspective and, maybe, how we can help conserve the land into the future.”  
Lanham says there is much to be learned about minority landowners through this study.  “What we hope to learn here, because we’ve seen dramatic decline in landownership among African-Americans, is we want to try and understand if they are truly valuing their land as they should from a conservation perspective.   
“Are they getting the most out of their land from a timber perspective?  Are they the most out of their land from a hunt-lease perspective? Are they getting the most out of their land for conserving natural resources for future generations?” asks Lanham.   
The goal, Lanham says, is to help these landowners better manage their properties for the future.  He is looking for a few landowners willing to help in the study saying, “We are looking for those who will allow us to walk their land with them as they tell their stories and then, hopefully, give them the impetus to go forward (and) develop management plans for their timber…develop management plans for their wildlife and estate planning so that the legacy of the property remains in the family and isn’t lost to other forces.” 
By helping the African-American rural landowner, Dr. Lanham says all South Carolinians can benefit. 
“(It) really is for all citizens of South Carolina.   If we’re able to help this set of landowners, then the effects will spread outward and have an effect on all landowners of all ethnicities and all property sizes.    
“This is indeed a project for us to help the state of South Carolina understand and manage its natural resources in a better manner,” Lanham added.
Dr. Lanham was one of only 40 people chosen nationwide to participate in the new conservation initiative of the National Audubon Society.