Monday, July 29, 2019

Clemson Forestry Professor Writes Op-Ed on Threat of Forest Parcelization

I came across this piece in the Southern Regional Extension Forestry News. Great article highlighting the problems associated with parcelization which I highlighted in my previous post on urban sprawl on farmland. This post points out the same problems are occurring on forestland. 

Clemson University Forestry Professor, Dr. Thomas Straka, wrote an opinion article published by The Hill. Straka argues that wildfires and public lands aren’t America’s only forestry problem. Rather, the rapid parcelization that is occurring across the nation is a threat to family forests. Parcelization results from forest holdings being broken down into smaller parcels. Ultimately, smaller land holdings and more landowners will result in contradictory management goals/styles. Straka contends that these management problems will negatively affect the nation’s timber supply and provides recommendations on how to reduce parcelization impacts. I provided the article below.

Wildfires and public lands aren't America's only forestry problem
By Thomas J. Straka, opinion contributor — 07/22/19

Wildfires and contentious public land policy in the American West, sparking debate about climate change and forest management practices on public timberlands, seem to be the only forestry issues in the news. This suggests that problems with America’s forests are centered on federal land ownerships. Actually, forests owned by average folks are more likely to be a future problem. Lots of regular people own forests. These are called family forests and their future is important for the clean water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and timber they produce.                   

The majority of the nation’s forests (443 million of 766 million acres) are in private ownership. Nearly two-thirds of that private forest is owned by families and individuals, mostly in small holdings. These became the family forests and the nation’s largest forest ownership group (owning 38 percent of forest, while the feds own only 31 percent).

Over the last 20 years, the number of family forest owners increased by over 1 million (to nearly 11 million). Considering just owners with more than 10 acres (eliminating the large backyards), average tract size of a family forest is 66 acres. That’s small by forestry standards.

At the time of the nation’s settlement, just over 1 billion acres was forested; today it is about three-quarters of that. This forest area has remained relatively stable over the past century.  Shifts in land use have helped maintain that stability; population growth and urban development ensure that won’t continue indefinitely.

To read the rest of the article click here.

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