Family forest owners include the families, individuals, trusts, estates, family partner- ships, and other unincorporated groups of individuals that own private forests
Family forest owners control 263 million acres (or 35%) of U.S. forests. They face decisions about if and how to manage their land and whether or not to develop, subdivide, sell, or pass on their property to heirs. Complex social and ecological factors influence these decisions. The cumulative impacts of millions of family forest owners’ independent decisions will deter- mine the future of U.S. forests.
The Family Forest Research Center studies the behaviors and attitudes of the people who own forests. By investigating the social, political, and economic dimensions of family forest ownership, we seek to improve forest conservation in order to better meet the current and future needs of forest owners, communities, and society.
All of us have different goals and objectives, but the one thing we all have is pride of ownership.
—Family forest owner, Washington
- Conduct cutting-edge, collaborative research with partners from government, non-governmental organizations, and universities with expertise in forestry, human dimensions, geography, spatial analysis, land change science, economics, and policy analysis
- Understand family forest owners’ attitudes, behaviors, and demographics
- Understand the factors affecting family forest owners’ decisions and the effects of these decisions on forest ecosystems and society
- Share our results and inform effective forest policy
Facts about Family Forest Owners
- 61% of owners own fewer than 10 acres
- 1 in 3 forest owners are 65 years of age or older
- Average land tenure is 26 years
- Most owners own land for beauty/scenery, privacy, nature protection; to pass on land to heirs; and because it is part of their home site
Facts about Family Forest Land
- 53% of family forest land is owned by people with 100 or more acres
- 1 in 5 acres is owned by someone who plans to sell or transfer some or all of their land in the next 5 years
- 2 in 5 acres are owned by absentee owners
- 1 in 5 acres is owned by someone who has written a forest management plan and 58% of family forest land is owned by people who have commercially harvested trees
Forest owners are making many decisions across the landscape that affect forest fragmentation, habitat connectivity, and ecological function. Questions arise about how changes in climate, species distribu- tions, and markets will impact the land and, in turn, future forest owner decision making.
The Family Forest research Center asks the important questions
- Are family forest owners . . .
- aware of land conservation options?
- choosing to participate in forest conservation programs?
- driving land-use change along the urban-rural gradient
- appropriately accounted for in forest policies?
- affected by federal, state, and local taxes?
- influenced by social networks when making decisions?
- better served through social marketing- based outreach
- interested in carbon sequestration programs?
- agreeable to having biomass harvested from their land?
- willing to provide recreational access to the public?
- concerned about and reacting to climate change?
- harvesting non-timber forest products from their land?
We are implementing the National Woodland Owner Survey, the Conservation Awareness Index, and other tools to answer these questions.