Thursday, October 2, 2008

Are Family Forest Landowners Well Informed?

Are the estimated 402,000 family owners of forest land in Virginia receiving sufficient information to sustainably manage their forests? The results of the 2006 National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) suggest not as less than 15% report that they have received advice on forest management and less than 4% have a forest management plan.

Owners of larger parcels tend to get more advice and this is reflected in the NWOS estimates that some form of advice was received for 38.4% of family forestland, and that 15.3% of family forestland was reported as covered by a management plan.

The NWOS also looks at the source of advice. The most common source (reported by 52% of owners receiving advice) was loggers, followed by state agency foresters (25%) and private consultants (25%). These categories are not mutually exclusive but they do suggest that many landowners are not seeking or receiving advice from professional foresters when making management decisions.

Fortunately larger parcels are more likely to receive professional advice with an estimated 25% of family forest land receiving advice from state agency foresters and 14.4% from forestry consultants (again, not mutually exclusive).

While not surprising to those in the forestry community, that fact that most family forest owners do not receive professional advice poses a major challenge in the sustainable management of our forest resources.

The NWOS is based on a survey of 444 Virginia forest landowners and contains many more details. Both the nationwide report Family Forest Owners of the United States, 2006 and the Virginia tables can be accessed online.

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