Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Fate of the Forests

Albion Basin - Wasatch Mountains

Nearly one third of Utah's 53 million acres is occupied by forest. Timberlands (forest that support commercial timber species) represent about 21% of Utah's forests. About 20% of the timberland in Utah is privately owned. Much of the private forest lands are being divided into smaller tracts and purchased by non-farmer/ranchers. Harvest contribution from private lands has increased from about 6% in 1966 to 12% in 1970 to 17% in 1992. It is expected to continue to rise because timber demand is high and supply from public lands continues to decline.

Landowners, and the decisions they make about estate planning, could affect the future of the nations forested areas by putting them at risk for possible development. Without proper planning financial pressures may increase the likelihood that large or contiguous forested tracts will be subdivided.

According to the US Forest Service, current forest landowners as a group are aging. People age 70 or older own about a fifth of all privately owned forest lands. More than 60% of current forestland owners are age 55 or older and about half of them have already retired.

Fish Lake

Officials at the US Forest Service say that the current generation of owners tends to value their forestland for its aesthetics: beauty, biodiversity, nature and a feeling of ownership.

They often manage their lands independently and rarely ask for outside help. Many of them have harvested timber in the last 5-10 years to generate income or improve the overall health and biodiversity of their forests. Their heirs, on the other hand, tend to view the family-owned forests more as land investments. Without these same values, the heirs will be more likely to sell or develop them.

They recommend several tips for elder owners to pass on their values and knowledge of their forests along with the land:

• Talk with their children about why owning forestland is important

• Invite them to visit and walk around their forest with them

• Show them how they’ve improved the land and why

Share their forest management skills with them

• Invite them to participate in the forest management decision making

At our website, I have posted the Forest Services publication Estate Planning for Forest Landowners - What will Become of Your Timberland?

High Uintahs

More can be found at the Family Forest Research Center
Info on Utah forests here.

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