Private Forests: More Owners, Fewer Acres

By Sampson, Neil | American Forests, Autumn 1998 | Go to article overview

Private Forests: More Owners, Fewer Acres


Sampson, Neil, American Forests


The good news about America's private forests is that millions of people want to own and cherish them. The bad news is that, with the amount of available forestland staying essentially the same, adding millions of new owners means the average size of individual parcels is plummeting - and that small plots will become increasingly hard to manage effectively. These startling trends in forest ownership were brought to light in a recent study of America's private forestlands that was based on U.S. Forest Service surveys and public opinion research in several state universities. The study illustrated the following:

* Small ownerships (less than 100 acres) are increasing at the rate of almost 150,000 per year. That's about twice the number of participants in the American Tree Farm System. If these new owners were going to participate in a similar program, each year someone would have to create and operate two new programs the size of the current Tree Farm System.

* Most owners say their priorities are aesthetics, wildlife, property value, and the like; fewer people own forests with timber production as a primary goal. Surprisingly, however, almost half think they will harvest some timber from their land in the next decade.

* For most forest owners, managing their forest is not usually an issue. They don't oppose it - they simply don't think about it. They don't belong to forestry groups, read forestry magazines, or belong to forestry organizations. …

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