New Forest Owners Prefer Enjoying Their Land Over Working It

approximately 55 percent of the nation's timber supply provided by private landowners, Jacobson said Florida's 7.2 million acres of private forests are important suppliers of wood in an $8 billion industry.

Another trend in forest ownership is a decrease in the average size of a private owner's land holding. Survey results show large forests are being divided up and sold to city dwellers. The number of forested parcels between 100 and 500 acres has decreased by 15 percent over the last 15 years, while the number of small parcels has increased.

"When the property is divided into 10- or 20-acre lots and sold to different individuals, it hurts the integrity of the land," Jacobson said. "It's also hard to manage the forest economically, and the owners just give it up."

Wilson Rivers is not part of the new breed of forest owners. He and his wife live on their 2,500 acres of property in Union County, north of Gainesville.

The 76-year-old farmer leases several acres to cattle ranchers, but slash pine can be found on most of his property. Trees are cut every two to three years and sold for several different uses, including paper production, lumber and plywood.

"I'll plant 100 acres in the fall of next year," Rivers said. "There's no telling when they'll be cut. Probably 15 or 16 years later. It's nice to know my trees will still be providing oxygen once I'm gone."

As a member of the board of directors for the Florida Forestry Association, Rivers shares Jacobson's concerns over the fragmentation of Florida's forests. "If the land is not managed, you're growing trees of no value," he said. "It's a waste."

The next step for forest managers statewide, Jacobson said, is to find ways to target the new type of landowners and educate them on the consequences of not managing their forests.

A suggested management plan includes periodic harvests, planting new trees or allowing natural regrowth. It also requires controlled burns.

"There are environmentalis

Contact: Karen Meisenheimer
University of Florida

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