At last count, nearly 6,000 acres of forest and open space are converted to other uses in America each day. Over the next 20 years, an area of forest larger than the entire state of Idaho (57 million acres) is expected to be at a very high risk of being lost to development as it transitions in ownership to a new generation of landowners. Just over half of U.S. forests are privately owned, 62% of which are owned by families and individuals.
45% of America's family forests are owned by individuals over 65 years of age. During the next two decades, the U.S. will witness the largest intergenerational transfer of private forest lands in its history. What will this mean for forest conservation? Given the economic pressures for development and land conversion, what policy changes are needed to help landowners keep forest as forest?
Next Generation Study
Think you know what the kids of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin family forestland owners are thinking about regarding ownership of their family forests? The Pinchot Institute is studying the future of our forests as they are passed down from generation to generation. Extensive data gathering of demographics, opinions, and decision-making amongst the next generation of forest landowners has revealed that the majority of offspring of Wisconsin family forestland owners are not connected to the land and have not been involved in the management of the land but still expect to inherit the land from their parents. Click here to read more about these studies and see the accompanying data on our next generation of forest landowners.
Sustainable Forestry Revolving Loan Fund
These studies also illustrated the extent of the uncertainty of the next generation of forest landowners that they will maintain the forest rather than parcelize or otherwise develop the land. One tool to help address landowners' financial concerns and to maintain healthy forests is through the implementation of a revolving loan fund. The Pinchot Institute, in partnership with The Nature Conservancy of Pennsylvania, has studied the feasibility of employing such a fund to support sustainable forestry by private landowners.
Forest Health-Human Health Initiative
Pinchot Institute research indicates that medical care expenses landowners are unable to afford, or do not want to pass on to their children, are major drivers of forestland conversion and unsustainable management in the U.S. Interviews of over 1,000 pairs of landowners and children across five states, point specifically to long-term care and catastrophic medical events as being a central financial concern that weighs into landowner decisions about their forest. The aim of the Forest Health-Human Health Initiative is to address the root concerns of forest landowners by directly connecting innovative health coverage options with new markets for forest carbon.