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Private nonindustrial forests.

Privately owned forestlands of the United States are undergoing stress from more demands than ever before. While continuing to supply nearly half the nation's wood supply, nonindustrial private forests are increasingly used for other purposes including recreation, wildlife, water resources, and urban development. The challenge is to create appropriate public policy to guide the management and protection of our private forestlands in the face of these growing pressures.

Major change occurred on privately owned forestlands during the 1980s. The principal impacts include: The private forestland base shrank. Nearly every state is losing forestland to urban-suburban development or conversion to cropland. Many states report high rates of decline. Florida, for example, gave up 90,000 acres of private forests to development per year during the 80s.

Tax-law changes discouraged the ownership of forestland. Federal capital-gains legislation and property-tax policies in some states deterred owners from holding onto forestland.

Fire and pest outbreaks increased dramatically during the past decade. Both the severity and the frequency of occurrence skyrocketed. For example, prior to the 1980s, gypsymoth defoliation that exceeded one million acres in any one year occurred only during major outbreaks-or about one year in every five. Since 1980, at least one million acres have been defoliated every year.

Forest entomologists emphasize that our forests are showing the stresses of age, drought, ozone, acid rain (and air pollution in general), and the natural consequences of limited management atfivity. Fire managers raise the same points to explain increased wildfires.

Currently, continuing a trend of the 80s, only 10 percent of private landowners are estimated to take advantage of professional technical assistance. Fewer than 30 percent harvest their timber according to a resource-management plan. The acreage of nonindustrial private land receiving prescribed silvicultural treatment annually is only 1.3 percent of the acreage available for treatment. 4 The size of forest holdings and the reasons people own forestland changed during the past decade. Private-forestland holdings decreased in parcel size, resulting in more landowners. A California study showed that one area had a turnover of 58 percent in private-timberland ownership in less than 10 years, with two-thirds of the owners being absentee or part-time residents.

Reasons for owning forests have become notably more diverse. Amenity values are assuming greater significance. Today these noncommodity benefits are often cited as the primary reason for owning land. Improving wildlife habitat is a goal frequently mentioned by landowners-more frequently than receiving a monetary return from the sale of wood products.

A common thread seems to run through all geographic regions of this country. Forestland owners want to leave something for future generations that is better than what they found. More about that later.

One impact offsetting some of the stress caused by fire, pests, age, and air pollution is a tremendous resurgence in tree planting. Private-land tree planting has hit an all-time high. The primary stimulus was the 1985 Farm Bill's Conservation Reserve Program.

Ninety percent of the acres planted to trees were in the South; Georgia led the way with 603,000 acres reforested from 1987 through 1988.

Most western forestland owners are directly affected by federal land-management policies and actions, and indirectly all private forestland owners throughout the nation feel an impact. Increased demand is likely to occur on private forestlands for goods and services, commodities and noncommodities alike, as federal land development and utilization reach planned levels. Litigation of federal land-management actions often causes local, short-term demand on private land. Federal action to set aside lands for specific use has effectively reduced the forestland base available for multiple-use management. Forest-resource management on private land is and will be affected by federal land decisions.

Another concern is that net annual growth is not at a level that will meet projected future demand for wood fiber. Surveys in Georgia done in 1989 show softwood removals exceeding growth by 33 percent on nonindustrial private forestlands. Other states report less disturbing overall figures, but concern exists about declining forest-product quality and acreage not being regenerated, or regenerating to undesirable species.

Is there any hope for the future? I have always believed that these issues can be resolved in time and with clear direction and effective leadership. How much time do we have? What direction should we go? From where will our leaders come? Nobody can answer with certainty how much time remains, but it seems to me that another century at the current rate of deterioration in the quality, quantity, and productivity of our private-forestland resources would be harmful to the nation.

As to the other questions I raised, Carl Reidel, director of the environmental program at the University of Vermont in Burlington, was right, in my opinion, when he observed at a private-forest symposium that the U.S. has never had a strategic, multidimensional program for our nonindustrial private forestlands, rooted in a comprehensive national policy. Reidel went on to state that such a program must be regionally adaptive, and the public must understand and support the program.

Attempting to gain public understanding and interest may be a good place to start as we strive to determine our direction and develop forestry leadership. Past approaches forest education focused on rural people-farmers and ranchers.

Tomorrow's efforts to reach the public must have a strong urban focus. Half the U.S. population lives in 37 cities. Nine-tenths of the population growth in this century was in urban areas.

An Illinois study found tree-planting landowners to be typically 40 to 49 years of age with nonfarm occupations, and the majority have some type of post-high-school education. Their motivation for planting trees is conservation, with the predominant goal being the enhancement of habitat for wildlife. I suspect the Illinois study is representative of the changing population of forest owners in other states.

The concept of stewardship as applied to resource management of private forestland has recently received emphasis in the forestry profession and seems likely to gain congressional support as well. I believe stewardship is the multidimensional approach long needed on private forestlands.

Many argue that stewardship is what we have been practicing all along, but I disagree. We have been doing timber management when most landowners wanted something more -something all-encompassing, something sensitive to the rights of others, something that will improve for future generations what our generation inherited.

Others believe that once, long ago, as a people and a nation, we had a stewardship ethic toward the land. Pressures and pursuits of modern life have stripped us of that ethic.

Perhaps-but I wonder if we ever really had such an ethic. Are we not just now beginning to realize the consequences of our past actions? Whether we once had it, lost it, and are regaining it-or never had a stewardship ethic and are now developing one-is of no consequence. What is important is that we must listen to forestland owners when they speak from the heart about their reasons for owning and caring for forestland and strive to help them meet their goals.

A broader range of options for resource management have to be addressed. Recreation, wildlife habitat, forest health, fire hazard, water quality, wetland protection, and timber production all need to be taken into account.

Every state has a forestry organization; the U.S. Forest Service since its beginning has had a state and private forestry branch; the federal role in the management of private forestland has been defined and supported by every U.S. Congress in this century. Tremendous accomplishments have been achieved. All who have played a part in managing and protecting private forestlands should be proud of their efforts, but we all know that it has not been enough.

It just does not feel right deep down inside. We are farther behind; our direction is unclear; leadership is fragmented; and competition among all of us continues to waste much of our energy.

The coming decade must bring this nation a comprehensive national policy to guide all of us in our efforts to better manage and protect privately owned forests. With such a policy, existing programs can be analyzed and then kept or discarded; new programs can be developed to meet the needs of the 90s and perhaps most of the 21st century; and we can all begin working anew to achieve our goal of leaving for our children something better than what we found. AF

Over the past year, support has been growing for the Forest Stewardship Program, a new initiative to encourage integrated resource management on our nation's nonindustrial private forestlands.

In December 1988, the National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the State and Private Forestry (S&PF) branch of the U. S. Forest Service agreed to work together to obtain Congressional funding for this initiative. It appears as if their efforts have been successful. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have included funding for the Forest Stewardship Program in their versions of the fiscal 1990 Forest Service appropriations bill.

Conferees from the House and Senate will soon decide how much funding to provide. The amount is likely to fall between the $5 million and 15 million figures proposed by the House and Senate respectively.

The purpose of the Forest Stewardship Program is to reach the many owners of nonindustrial private forestland who have not been engaged through traditional forestry-assistatice programs. The program is also intended to encourage them to better manage their lands for a broad array of resource values over the long term.

Fifty-eight percent of our nation's commercial forestland is owned and managed by nearly eight million owners of nonindustrial private land. Traditional efforts to provide professional technical assistance have reached only about 10 percent of these owners, and of those harvesting timber, fewer percent have done so according to a professional management plan.

Additional objectives of the program include the following: to be more responsive to landowner needs, which are often expressed in terms of wildlife, timber, aesthetics, and stewardship (i.e., properly managing land to leave it to one's heirs in better condition than it was received); to place an equal emphasis on environmental and economic management principles; and to develop truly integrated management plans that focus on fish and wildlife habitat, water quality, soil productivity, aesthetics, wetland management, and recreation, as well as timber management-for the benefit of current and future landowners, as well as for society at large.

One of the key program elements is encouraging increased cooperation and coordination among federal and state agencies in providing a broad range of professional technical assistance to landowners.

The goal of the Forest Stewardship Program is to enroll 25 million acres of nonindustrial private forestland across the nation within the next five years. To accomplish this goal, NASF and S&PF are seeking 15 million this year and $25 million in each of the next four years. These federal funds are to be matched by state and local funds.
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Title Annotation:The State of Our Forests; includes related information
Author:Hubbard, James E.
Publication:American Forests
Date:Nov 1, 1989
Words:1810
Previous Article:Federal forests.
Next Article:Industrial forests.
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