National Woodland Owner Survey NWOS
The NWOS is the official census of forest owners in the United States. It is aimed at increasing our understanding of woodland owners who are the critical link between forests and society. Summary information from the NWOS is used by people who provide, design, and implement services and policies that affect forest owners including government agencies, non-governmental organizations, including landowner organizations, private service providers, forest industry companies, and academic researchers. On an annual basis, the NWOS contacts forest landowners from across the country to ask them questions about: the forest land they own, their reasons for owing it, how they use it, if and how they manage it, sources of information about their forests, their concerns and issues related to their forests, their intentions for the future of their forests, and their demographics. The main features of the NWOS website are: survey results and publications, frequently asked questions, contact information, copies of the questionnaires used, links to state forestry and other agencies, and the NWOS Table Maker – an online tool for generating custom tables.
As part of a broader Forest Service expansion into urban areas, the Family Forest Research Center and National Woodland Ownery Survey teams are creating a survey instrument (National Landowner Survey) to census private residential property owners in U.S. cities with populations over 200,000 people. We will be asking these owners about the part of their property covered by trees and other green space (e.g., garden, lawn). The questionnaire will cover the following topics:
- Ownership structure
- Housing type
- Number of properties owned
- Features of the property
- Reasons for owning
- Number of people who are a part of the household
- When the property was acquired
- Property use and management activities in the past five years
- Anticipated property use and management activities in the next five years
- Involvement and familiarity with the neighborhood/community
- Perceptions of neighborhood and/or community status
- Perceptions of urban greenscape benefits
- Awareness of local property management ordinances and services
- Property management advice received
- Attitudes towards wildlife, trees, landscaping, and community
- Concerns relating to the urban greenscape
- Demographic information
Three Urban Surveys have been launched and the results are in for two!
- Baltimore, Maryland with the Urban Forest Service Field Station
- Survey results being collected and results to come soon. Current response rate 10%.
- Austin, Texas with the University of Texas A&M
- Key Findings
- 33.8 million trees covering 30.8% of the city
- These trees store 1.9 million tons of carbon valued at $2.8 million a year
- Overall tree worth is equal to $16 billion
- Key Findings
- Madison, Wisconsin with the state Department of Natural Resources
- Key Findings
- People enjoy the trees in their neighborhoods and our more likely to take care of the ones they have than plant new ones. However, women viewed trees on their properties as more important than men.
- Verbal communication is the preferred method of receiving info on tree care & would trust private professionals more than government except Extension employees.
- Millennials are more likely to volunteer for tree initiatives and more likely to plant. Baby boomers concerned with problems with trees.
- Key Findings
The National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) now has data from multiple iterations that asked the same questions. Some of the Family Forest Owners that responded from 2004 – 2006 also responded again in 2011 – 2013. We will be analyzing these common landowners looking for trends over time.
Under a $500,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, UMass is heading an effort involving Cornell University, University of Maine and University of Vermont to understand and inform family forest owner decisions of intergenerational land transfer. This effort is an integrated project involving both research of and outreach to family forest owners owning forest land in the four partnered states. Family forest lands provide tremendous amounts of wood products and ecosystem services in the U.S., particularly in the northeast where 52% of the land is held by family forest owners (FFOs). Due to an aging landowner population, in the coming years, almost half of the FFOs in the U.S. will be deciding the future of their land (i.e., convert to another use, parcelize, conserve). These decisions will be the most important determinants of the viability of working forests, because forest cover loss and parcel size reductions eliminate or lessen forest management opportunities. Stabilizing the forest land base by stemming the tide of conversion and parcelization is critical to ensuring a future of viable and competitive working forested landscapes.
The project team aim to help stabilize the forested land base by working to ensure that a significant proportion of FFO lands are passed from one generation of landowners to the next with minimal amount of forest conversion and parcelization. The research component of this project will use landowner interviews and mail surveys to better understand where in the planning process FFOs are and how they make decisions about the future of their land. These research findings will inform regional extension programs that use peer network and train-the-trainers approaches to help inform FFO decisions. By working to stabilize the land base in this way, this project will assist in maintaining a viable forest industry, and, ultimately, vibrant rural communities.
The forests of the U.S. exist within a complex socio-political-economic environment that has profoundly influenced the current state of the forests and has major implications for the future of the forests. A key element of the sociopolitical environment is ownership; the owners of the land, working within biophysical, social, political, and economic constraints, make decisions about the land such as whether the land will be forested, what goods and services will be produced, and who will have access to the goods and services. There is a wide diversity of forest ownership patterns across the U.S. The mix between publicly and privately owned forests varies across the U.S. as do the uses of the land.
This project will use new and existing data to describe the distribution of forest ownership across the U.S. in greater detail than has ever been done before. It will quantify ownership transitions across the U.S., model forest ownership dynamics, including timber investment management organizations (TIMOs) and real estate investment trusts (REITs), and explore the implications of ownership dynamics on current policy-relevant topics, such as land use change and carbon sequestration. This collaborative effort involves scientists from the USDA Forest Service Northern and Southern Research Stations, University of Massachusetts Amherst, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and Auburn University. This project will begin in FY2016 and run to FY2019.
It is important to understand the behavior of family forest owners because these landowners control over 80% of the forests in New England, and their actions and decisions will impact the public goods these forests provide. These behaviors could include harvesting their timber, selling or sub-dividing their land, or opening their land for recreational uses. Typical studies of family forest owner behavior involve self-reported surveys where people are asked to recall past behavior or predict future behavior. These surveys are prone to bias, as it can be difficult to remember when things occur or to accurately predict what one will do in the future. Furthermore, land use and land management decisions take place over long periods of time. Therefore, this study aims to test a new method of understanding landowner behavior by asking them to respond in a given moment whether they have thought about their forestland the previous day. Landowners will be sent a “PING” and asked to recall in the last several days if and how they engaged with their woodland. Did they walk in their woods, make a management decision, or talk to someone about their property? We hope the results will help us understand family forest owners’ relationship with their forests.
The Conservation Awareness Index (CAI) estimates woodland owner awareness of their conservation alternatives for their land. Modeled after the Consumer Confidence Index that estimates confidence in the economy, CAI estimates knowledge and awareness of conservation alternatives and experience with them. CAI can be deployed in a landscape to estimate landowner awareness, and identify gaps in understanding, enabling targeted outreach response. It can also be used to estimate awareness change over time during or following an outreach campaign.
In 2017, the FFRC partnered with New England Forestry Foundation and American Forest Foundation to re-survey individuals in 10 towns in Southern Massachusetts & Northern Connecticut. Currently in the analysis phase, CAI scores for these regions will be generated as well as a look into how outreach efforts may have affected landowner awareness.
Assessing the Potential for Climate Change & Forest Insects to Drive Land-use Regime Shifts (CIPHER)
Under a National Science Foundation coupled natural-human systems grant, the Family Forest Research Center is working with Harvard Forest and Duke University to explore the effects of potential insect infestations in the Connecticut River watershed. In particular, the team is examining how climate change and insect dynamics may shift land-use regimes in the study area by altering human decision-making; how these alterations in human decisions may affect forest ecosystems and the flow of select ecosystem services; and how, in turn, these ecosystem changes may affect landowners. The knowledge and specific products generated by this research are highly relevant to land planning, the conservation of forest ecosystem services and biodiversity, estimates of timber and woody biomass, and forest harvesting guidelines.
Data has been collected, analyzed and the first paper from this project is in review!
Private forest owners make decisions about 420 million acres, or 58% of forested land in the United States (Butler et al. 2016 Journal of Forestry). The majority of these owners are family forest owners (FFOs), which are comprised of families, individuals, trusts, and estates. There has been very little research focusing on minority forest landowners in the country, with most of the research on minority FFOs focused on African American owners in the southern United States. Our research uses data from the 2013 iteration of the U.S. Forest Service’s National Woodland Owner Survey to explore significant differences between minority and white FFOs across the United States. We will use bivariate statistics, random forest analysis, and regression techniques to understand what factors differentiate races and ethnicities of landowners, and whether race and ethnicity is a significant predictor of select land-use and land-management behaviors. Over 6 percent of landowners, making decision on 7.9 million acres, are of a minority race or ethnicity. Creating policies, programs, and outreach that incorporates minority landowners’ ownership objectives, concerns, and interests may help these traditionally underserved populations have access to more sources of information and advice related to topics such as forest management, conservation easements, and estate planning.
Currently, NWOS is adding more African-American landowners in the South to the "to be surveyed" pool.
Family forests are important sources of benefits to landowners, land users, and the general public (Caputo and Butler 2017). These benefits satisfy multiple social values, including direct use of natural resources and forest lands (e.g. wood products, recreation), indirect use of forests' capacity to regulate ecological function (e.g. provision of clean water, carbon sequestration), and cultural and existence values (e.g. biodiversity). Using tools and perspectives from the ecosystem services literature, value theory, service-dominant logic (SDL), and other theoretical bases, we seek to better understand what 1) benefits are provided by family forest lands, 2) who benefits from family forests, and 3) the relationship between landowner values, landowner decisions, and benefits provided by family forests
Of Vermont’s estimated 4.5 million acres of forestland, 62% is owned privately by family forest owners. Various state, federal, and non-governmental organizations operate within Vermont to aid these landowners with the conservation of their forests through technical assistance programs. On behalf of the American Forest Foundation and the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, we seek to study the efficacy of conservation assistance programs and determine how they can be improved. Through personal interviews and a mail survey of these landowners, we will examine programs that offer assistance with wildlife habitat management, enrollment in the state’s current use tax program (UVA), and management for healthy forests. Additionally, we will assess whether offering non-governmental, accelerated cost-share funds over traditional cost-share methods will affect family forest owner engagement.
There is a rich body of literature focused on family forest owners in the United States. To date, there have been various literature reviews focused on different aspects of the literature, including family forest owner behaviors (Floress et al. in press), harvesting behavior (silver et al. 2015), decision-making (Pivoriunas 2004), and forest management (Beach et al. 2005). While these synthesis papers are valuable, there is no literature review of the broad body of literature using a formal, systematic approach. In this project, we analyzed over 600 articles related to family forest owners in the United States from 2000-2017. We aim to get a better understanding of the threats and challenges to family forest owners across the U.S., the benefits family forests
Family forest owners comprise a large part of the landowners in both the United States and Finland. In both countries, there is a national survey implemented aimed at gaining a better understanding of who owns the forests, why they own it, what they do on their land, and future intentions. In this project, our goal is to better understand the similarities and differences between the countries in terms of family forest owner characteristics, land characteristics, land use, forest management, objectives for owning lands, and future intentions. Examining these similarities and differences are useful in that, where there are similarities, we can more directly relate research that has been done in Finland to our family forest owners, and vice versa. Lessons learned from policy and program successes and failures could be applied to either county. It is also useful to get a better understanding on how the countries are different and where we might not be able to apply research from Finland to our own family forest owners.
The Forest Legacy Program, administered by the US Forest Service, is a grant program that provides funding for conservation of private working forests in the form of conservation easements and fee-simple land purchases. The program seeks to strategically conserve threatened private forest land that provides important environmental and economic benefits. Land conserved through the Forest Legacy Program must be sustainably managed and most Forest Legacy land is managed for timber and public recreation. We are assessing the contributions that economic activities on FLP land provide to local economies in four regions of the country: the Northern Forest of Maine, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont, Georgia and South Carolina, Wisconsin and the upper peninsula of Michigan, and Idaho and Montana. In addition, we are compiling examples of Forest Legacy Program properties throughout the four study regions that contribute to the local economy and improve quality of life for residents and visitors.
See the full economic report here:
The U.S. Forest Service, Forest Stewardship Program (FSP) provides technical and educational assistance to non-industrial private forest (NIPF) owners in order to promote good forest stewardship practices. To evaluate this program, a mixed-methods approach was taken, including summarization of existing performance metrics; cataloguing of state forest stewardship activities; National Woodland Owner Survey data analyses; analyses of FSP activities in relation to forest area trends; and focus groups.
FSP reaches many NIPF owners, but these owners represent only a fraction of the NIPF owners. On average, 14,700 new or revised FSP management plans, covering 1.9 million acres, were written per year across the U.S. between 2007 and 2011; the number of plans decreased by 5% and acres covered increased by 14% over this period. Landowner assists, averaging 146,000 per year, decreased by 19% between 2007 and 2011. Landowners educated, averaging 468,000 per year, decreased by 68% between 2007 and 2011. Disregarding double counting and other reporting issues, FSP management plans, landowner assists, and landowner education are annually reaching <1%, 3.3%, and 10.5% of the estimated number of eligible NIPF owners, respectively.
Some characteristics are different between assisted and non-assisted landowners. Assisted landowners are more likely than non-assisted landowners to have commercially harvested timber; improved wildlife habitat; planted trees; reduced wildfire risk; higher annual incomes; and higher levels of education.
Some characteristics are similar between assisted and non-assisted landowners. These groups are similar with respect to future intentions to sell or subdivide land; age; primary residence location; ethnicity; gender; how the land was obtained; and farm ownership.
There were few discernible differences on landowner behavior among the different types of assistance (i.e., plans, advice, or cost-share). Landowners who received any single form of assistance acted nearly the same as those receiving any other single form of assistance. Owners receiving all three types do appear to be managing more intensively.
For those landowners interested in active management, landowner assistance activities (i.e., management plans, advice, or cost share) appear to be helping them manage their forests better and more intensively, but they do not appear to be influencing landowners’ land use decisions (e.g., selling or subdividing) or to be encouraging non-engaged owners to become engaged.
No discernible relationships between FSP activities and forest area trends were detected. No relationships were found in state- or county-level analyses between FSP activities and changes to forest cover. This may have been due to data limitations or FSP not having a large enough impact.
Appendix II: Annotated Bibliography of Selected Studies (PDF)
Appendix III: Policy Verification Questionnaire (PDF)
Appendix IV: Family Forest Owner Focus Group Report (PDF)
Appendix V: Family Forest Owner Focus Group Topic Guide (PDF)
Appendix VI: Family Forest Owner Focus Group Screener (PDF)
Yale Forest Forum Review: Tax Policies and Family Forest Owners (PDF)
In the United States, about 35% of the forestland is owned by 10 million family forest owners (Butler 2008). A wide range of policy tools have been adopted to encourage sustainable family forest management, including technical assistance, outreach education, financial incentives, regulations, as well as public ownership. Among these policies and programs, financial incentives, particularly tax incentives, play a prominent role (Kilgore et al. 2007). Research on tax incentives has mostly focused on three particular types of policies and programs: income tax, property tax, and estate tax.
In contrast to the body of literature addressing the financial implications of tax policies, no published studies have analyzed the cumulative impact of tax policies on the decision-making behavior of family forest owners. This suggests a need for an up-to-date, comprehensive understanding of existing tax policies and programs across the country and their impacts on family forest owners.
This project addresses three questions:
1) What is the current landscape of federal, state, and local tax policies affecting family forest owners?
2) What are the impacts of these tax policies on family forest owners' decisions?
3) What are the strengths and weaknesses of these tax policies?
The Potential for Carbon Sequestration on Family Forestland
Responding to rapid climate change has been recognized as a major challenge our civilization will face in the coming decades (Gowdy, 2007). One potential tool for climate mitigation is sustainable forest management. Forest ecosystems play an important role in the global carbon cycle (Depro et al., 2008). Activities that maintain forest cover and increase biomass accumulation in forests and forest products are crucial for protecting existing carbon sinks and promoting additional carbon sequestration (NEFA, 2002). As climate changes, interest in the role of forests in mitigating greenhouse gas accumulation is growing as an important public policy issue. As the 8th most forested state in the country, Massachusetts has the responsibility and opportunity to contribute to climate mitigation. Roughly 62% of the state is forested and 78% of that land base is owned by 235,000 family forest owners (Alerich, 2000). It is the collective decisions of these landowners that will shape the potential of carbon sequestration in Massachusetts’ forests. Two questions arise. First, are the carbon sequestration mechanisms used in other states viable in Massachusetts, considering the large population of family forest owners statewide and their diverse background, needs, and concerns? Second, what policy tools may be used to promote carbon sequestration on family forestland and what specific parameters will affect policy effectiveness? Answering these questions will 1) address the need for mitigating CO2 emission under impending climate change; 2) identify new economic and social incentives for sustainable management of forest resources that benefit the forest, forest owners, and society; 3) inform the design of education and outreach programs to help family forest owners better understand the opportunities related to carbon sequestration and enable them to make informed decisions; and 4) provide a comprehensive understanding of carbon sequestration potential in Massachusetts and communicating this understanding with various stakeholders, including family forest owners, foresters, community planners, conservation organizations, extension educators, industries, and local, state and federal officials and policy makers. This project has been awarded full funding from the Massachusetts Agricultural Experiment Station and UMass Extension for a duration of three years.
Increased use of biomass fuels is a promising option to decrease our dependence on foreign oil while reducing greenhouse emissions. The use of ethanol as transportation fuels also produces less sulfur, carbon monoxide, and particulates. The largest potential supply sources are from forest based woody biomass followed by urban wood residues. Since over 75% of forests in Massachusetts are owned by non-industrial private forest owners, gaining a better understanding of their attitudes towards biomass harvesting and energy production is critical to determining the viability of biomass. Our project will investigate the attitudes of forest landowners towards biomass.
Family forests provide many benefits to society. However, numerous threats to family forests put these benefits at risk. To evaluate the benefits of and threats to family forests, as well as potential solutions to these threats, a multiple methods approach was taken including: summarization of existing literature; survey of extension foresters across the U.S.; and spatial analysis of threats to and benefits of family forests across the U.S.
In the United States, 58% of the 11 million family forest ownerships with at least 4 ha of forestland have at least one female owner and females are the primary decision makers for 22% of the ownerships. Despite the number of female family forest owners (FFOs) across the USA, little research has focused on whether the owners’ land use and land management attitudes, intentions, and behaviors differ between female and male FFOs.
We are investigating America’s female family owners in three phases:
- Phase One: Analysis of National Woodland Owner Survey Data comparing male and female family forest owners
- Phase Two: Analysis of Women Owning Woodland (WOW) networks
- Phase Three: Cognitive interviews with female family forest owners that participate and do not participate in WOW networks
Phase One used data (n=1,619) from the 2013 iteration of the U.S. Forest Service’s National Woodland Owner Survey. Classification tree and regression techniques were used to understand what factors differentiate female and male FFOs and whether gender is a significant predictor of land use and management behaviors and attitudes. Results indicate that females are more likely to have inherited land, particularly from a spouse. Males are more likely to have wildlife management objectives, more likely to have a commercial timber harvest, and more likely to have undertaken management activities in the past five years. There are considerable similarities between the attitudes and behaviors of female and male owners, but the differences are important in understanding constraints and barriers, and should be considered when designing forestry policies.
Phase Two used data from 9 cognitive interviews with regional WOW network coordinators. Broad themes emerged about the usefulness of these networks and the barriers they face for providing information and networking to female forest owners.
Phase Three will begin in the fall of 2016 with participant recruitment and interview guide development.
The TELE web site (http://www.engaginglandowners.org/) helps natural resource professionals tailor their communications and outreach efforts to the knowledge level, values and style of their target landowner audiences, allowing for more persuasive and meaningful communication and better results.
TELE is jointly coordinated by the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and the Family Forest Research Center.
Psychological distance (PD) is built on the premise that an individual’s mental representations of objects and activities depend on four dimensions of distance between the individual and the object: spatial, temporal, social, and hypothetical. Geographic or spatial distance refers to the level of abstraction when an object or activity is physically or spatially distant from the perceiver. Temporal distance is based on experimentation and research that suggest that events occurring in the far future are imagined or perceived with less vividness of detail. Social distance can be measured in terms of abstractions related to perceptions of ‘others’ versus the ‘self.’ For example, others’ actions are often described at an abstract conceptual level, whereas we tend to explain our own behaviors in more concrete terms (particularly negative behaviors). Finally, hypothetical distance refers to the perception of novel concepts, integrating knowledge and probability to form an individual’s abstraction with a given decision or outcome.
There are few applications of PD in natural resource and environmental research. Our objectives are to study family forest owner’s psychological distance when it comes to their woodland more generally and various specific management behaviors. Preliminary results suggest that PD can be described using frequency of timber harvesting, proximity of residence to woodland, co-ownership structure, and knowledge of harvesting options. Family forest owners with distant representations of harvesting require different outreach strategies than those who are psychologically closer.