In farming systems, forests have historically played an important role as a source of products and opportunities to earn income. Past Tuskegee studies have examined social issues such as the minority forest landowner (Gan and Kolison 1999, Zabawa and Kolison 1998); valuation of non-timber benefits of different forest ecosystem management strategies (Gan et al. 1996 and Gan and Miller 2001); and the impact of site preparation on timber and non-timber values (Gan et al. 1996). Economic returns are important to many forest landowners, particularly minority and limited resource landowners (Schelhas and Zabawa 2003). Yet relatively few landowners have formal management plans or undertake the forest management activities that would enable them to realize greater returns (Schelhas and Zabawa 2004).
Another area of research is the social and cultural structure of forestlands. Forest landowners value their forests for diverse reasons and manage them in diverse ways. Landowners have generally been treated as individuals, but they obtain information and resources and manage their land through complex social networks and communities. Current research is being conducted in the areas of: forest values influenced by social and economic position (small versus large landholding size), race and ethnicity, urban and rural experiences, and gender and their influence on forest management. Gan and Kebede (2004) surveyed small-scale African American forest landowners in the Alabama Black Belt. Results identified several factors, including management planning, that increased the contribution of forest land to household income.