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Danielle Atkins (BSFR ’12, MFR ’13): 'Enlighten, empower, enroot'

The value of forested land isn’t just in its timber—it’s also in its legacy. While generations of foresters have skewed male, times are changing; women are buying, inheriting and managing more land than their ancestors.

And Danielle Atkins is here to shepherd them through the process.

Through workshops, an online academy and a symposium planned for 2021, Atkins and her consulting firm, Land and Ladies, is connecting with female landowners across Georgia and the Southeast to educate them on managing forestland and empower them with confidence to get a hand on their land. She focuses on three tenets that support her message and the goals of Land and Ladies: Enlighten, empower and enroot.

“Enlighten is the education aspect. Empower is the events we’re hosting, many of which are partnered with Warnell. We’re starting with a series of workshops where women will learn various forest management needs, from reforestation to harvesting basics, and gain the confidence to start being engaged with their land,” she says. “But enroot is probably my most favorite word. It shows them their legacy and potential.”

Atkins envisions a tree as it gains a solid root system. She wants to create the same experience for the women who attend her educational events, giving them instruction and guidance in land management or creating an estate plan for their children and grandchildren.

In a way, it makes sense that Atkins has found her way to a career that blends education, science and the outdoors. It’s what first drew her to Warnell as an undergraduate, when she was considering a career as a science teacher. But she also knew that she didn’t want to spend her days inside. She became a wildlife sciences major but continued to explore her options.

During her senior year, she helped re-launch the Cypress Knee yearbook, which meant fundraising for its publication. Through this experience, and being a member of the UGA Forestry Club, she met influential forestry alumni and learned the range of expertise it offered.

She was hooked, but it came with a catch.

Offered an internship at Disney that aligned with her environmental education interests, she had to make a decision: Continue down that road or try for a last-minute internship in forestry that would pave the way for her master’s degree.

“I went to a GFA event determined to get an internship. It was April, so most were already decided by then,” she says. “But I walked up to a representative from Weyerhaeuser, introduced myself and said, ‘I need summer field experience.’ They happened to have an intern drop out at the last minute. I spent the summer in Alabama, and it was perfect.”

After her acceptance into the MFR program, Atkins interned with Plum Creek—where her soon-to-be husband, Daniel Atkins, also interned—and then the couple moved to Brunswick, Georgia, where he continued to work with Plum Creek until the company’s merger with Weyerhaeuser; he continues to work there today. Atkins landed a job with the Georgia Forestry Commission, and after the birth of their first child, she worked with McIntosh SEED to consult with African American forest landowners.

While the McIntosh SEED program works one-on-one with landowners, Atkins’ Land and Ladies takes the form of small groups, workshops and networking. The public health crisis caused by COVID-19 allowed her to further hone her business concept by incorporating virtual meetings.

The first event, The Woman Landowner Workshops, launches Oct. 1 in Athens and is produced in partnership with Warnell and BMT. January will see the first virtual event, The Woman Landowner Academy, in partnership with the Georgia Forestry Association. Her capstone event, The Woman Landowner Symposium, is planned for April 22-23, 2021.

Land and Ladies is still just beginning to grow, but its roots run deep. “It’s an opportunity to grow a greater network for women,” she adds. “They can come together and kindle relationships, which for women is one of the most critical points of what I’m doing—building that relationship.”

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