Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Committee Chair/Advisor

Lanham, Joseph D

Committee Member

Baldwin , Elizabeth D

Committee Member

Cunningham , Miller G

Committee Member

Floyd , Myron

Committee Member

Johnson Gaither , Cassandra

Committee Member

Robinson , Kenneth


African Americans account for a significant proportion of South Carolina`s
population but reportedly own a disproportionally smaller amount of land. Research indicates that landowners who hold significant sources of sustainable wealth and power can dramatically increase their quality of life and ultimately that of their communities. Current land loss trends for African Americans are increasing at an alarming rate, which may have larger social implications for this traditionally underserved population. The remaining African American landowners are a rapidly declining group, due to an assortment of factors (e.g., age, heirs property). Understanding the experiences of the residual African American forest landowners may yield insights of their land ethic. For this research, ―land ethic‖ is understood as an individual`s moral philosophy (the concept of correct behavior) in regards to his or her land, including the individual and collective elements (soil, water, flora, and fauna). The purpose was to investigate a smaller portion of a larger land ethic held by African Americans forest landowners, not to define the land ethic of all African Americans. This investigation of land ethic was accomplished through the framework of understanding personal and collective experiences of forest landowners.
Understanding landowners` land ethic can inform strategies for conservation programs, such as the Forest Stewardship Program. African American forest landowners were the focal point of this study because forests are the primary resource of South Carolina landowners. Through qualitative inquiry, both phenomenological and phenomographical, the results indicated that experiences unique to African Americans`
history and contemporary demographics were associated with forest landowners` land ethic. African Americans participating in this study retained their land because of the cultural/historical significance it represented for themselves, their families, and the African American community. Previous experiences with the government and private industries had a significant bearing on their trust. Also, the type of landowner, be it an absentee/resident, farmer/non-farmer, or a natural resource connection had a significant bearing on their land ethic as well. These qualitative findings informed the qualitative portion of this study.
The purpose of the quantitative study was to begin the development a land ethic scale, based on the qualitative results, to investigate how well the land ethic constructs factored. After the land ethic scale factored, demographic variables were tested to examine if the demographic characteristics had any bearing on land ethic scores. Results indicated different demographic variables influenced the land ethic constructs. The results from this study should inform academicians, managers, and policy makers that landowner experience has an impact on land ethic. Conservation programs should be tailored to take this phenomenon into consideration.



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