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Friday, 18 November 2016

Relationships between Different Forms of Private Forest Landowner Assistance and Land Management Behaviors and Intentions

[photo:] Forest Stewardship logoResearch Issue

Of the 751 million acres of forestland in the United States, 56% is privately owned, and of this, nearly two-thirds is owned by families and individuals.  These forest landowners hold a diversity of land management goals, as well as differing skills, interests, time availability, and capacities to manage their lands.  To help family forest owners effectively manage their forestland, a variety of federal and state landowner assistance programs have been developed. Many types of landowner assistance are available, including information and educationalmaterials, assistance in preparing forest management plans, professional advice, field-based assistance, cost-sharing, low interest grants or loans, and tax incentives.  A key issue of importance is whether or to what extent forest landowner assistance is having a measurable impact on landowner attitudes, behaviors and intentions, particularly in relation to maintaining the quality of private forest lands and the host of goods and services that flow from them.  

Our Research

We examined how family forest owners who receive various types of technical assistance differ from unassisted landowners with respect to their forestland management practices, attitudes and concerns, and future management, use, and ownership intentions. We did so by utilizing a national database containing information on private forest owners and the forestland they own; e.g., the National Woodland Owner Survey. The National Woodland Owner Survey is a long-term, ongoing survey of private forest landowners in the US administered by the USDA Forest Service.  By defining an assisted landowner according to several attributes contained in this database (e.g., has a forest management plan, received cost-share assistance, or received advice), important similarities and differences between recipients and non-recipients of various types of assistance are identified.
We found that assisted and unassisted landowners are different with respect to several characteristics of the owners and the forestland they own, land management practices undertaken, and reasons for forest landownership. For example, assisted landowners are more likely to have harvested timber, improved wildlife habitat, planted trees and reduced wildfire risk than the unassisted owners. With respect to future intentions, recipients of assistance were more likely to intend to harvest timber and plant trees than those without assistance.  Yet no distinctions were found between assisted and unassisted landowners with respect to their plans to either subdivide or sell their land. In many cases, the differences between assisted and unassisted landowners were not related to the specific type of assistance the landowner received, just if they had had some type of professional assistance.

Expected Outcomes

Our research has important implications for how private forestland owner assistance programs are delivered.  This study found that family forest landowners are more likely to undertake certain land management activities if they have received assistance. Therefore, linking forest landowners to someform of assistance may be important if a goal is to have landowners adopt practices such as wildlife habitat improvement or tree planting. Yet our analysis suggests that landowners are not very sensitive to the kind of assistance they receive. We found that landowners who received one of three forms of assistance (management plan, financial assistance, or advice) were similarly distinct from landowners who have not received the assistance. Our analysis also found little difference between assisted and unassisted owners when it comes to their plans to subdivide or sell their forestland. 
How policymakers should respond to these findings depends on the public policy goals. If the goal is to encourage landowners to implement land management practices such as improving wildlife habitat or reforestation, then providing some type of interaction with and assistance to landowners is important. Because the specific type of assistance does not appear to be an important factor, one strategy is to focus assistance efforts to reach the largest private forest acres per dollar spent. However, if the public policy goal is to “keep forest as forest,” policymakers, mangers, and extension foresters may need to diversify or expand current assistance approaches.

Research Results

Kilgore, Michael A.; Snyder, Stephanie A.; Eryilmaz, Derya; Markowski-Lindsay, Marla A.; Butler, Brett J.; Kittredge, David B.; Catanzaro, Paul F.; Hewes, Jaketon H.; Andrejczyk, Kyle. 2015. Assessing the relationship between different forms of landowner assistance and family forest owner behaviors and intentions. Journal of Forestry. 113(1): 12-19. 

Research Participants 

Principal Investigator

Research Partners

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