What's at Stake?
The frequent churning of forestland in the United States poses significant challenges for local communities, endangered species and policy makers alike. In the Mahoosuc region, the focus of our recent case study, we noted the short term affects of timberland ownership transfer have led to the following issues:
- Job loss. As new owners focus on ‘management efficiency’ to increase returns to investors, forest-related jobs decline.
- Land values. The cost of land has been driven up many times beyond timber value, increasing the cost of conservation.
- Land-use change. Some new managers are turning to development to meet target returns.
- Public access. Posting compromises local economic development for tourism.
Meeting the Challenge
In our study, Forestland for Sale, we predict that as much as 28% of the region’s forestland will be sold in the next 5 - 10 years and suggest that:
“If fee and easement purchases remain the major tool for conserving the region’s forest base, $30 million to $120 million would be needed for conservation in this region alone.”
This estimate would only secure the future of forestry for one small 600,000-acre region. Experts estimate that TIMOs own a full 20 million acres nation wide. Assuming all of that land will cycle through another ownership in the next 10 years, buying easements on all of those lands would cost an estimated $10 billion.
Traditional conservation may come up short. How are we going to meet this challenge? Some of the opportunities:
- A liquid market. Within the next 10 years, 7% to 28% of the Mahoosuc region’s forestland, or 40,000 to 150,000 acres, will come up for sale.
- New values. Carbon credits and bioenergy could give owners return on their investment and provide incentives for forest management.
- Tax incentives. Revisions to regulations and tax codes could encourage a stable forestry base and slow conversion.
- Partnerships. Conservation groups can partner among themselves and with landowners to identify and protect priority lands.