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Minnesota family woodland owners rule!

Map of Minnesota woodland ownership indicated by family forest owners (dark green), other ownerships (light green), and non-woodlands (white).
Map of Minnesota woodland ownership: family forest owners (dark green), other ownerships (light green), non-woodlands (white)

Forests provide benefits at local, regional and global scales. Families and individuals own more wooded land than any other group in the U.S., and their decisions about how to manage and care for their land have broad impacts.

To help support healthy forests and vibrant communities, it is important to understand what Minnesota's woodland owners do with their land and why, and what their challenges and needs are.

The USDA Forest Service, Forest Inventory and Analysis program, through the Family Forest Research Center, conducts the National Woodland Owner Survey. Below are the results from 278 randomly selected Minnesota woodland owners with 1+ acres who responded to the survey in 2017 and 2018.

  • Family woodland owners dominate: Family woodland owners control 33% of Minnesota’s wooded land, more than any other ownership group. An estimated 200,000 family woodland owners control 5.9 million acres in Minnesota.   
  • Size of holdings makes a big difference: The average family woodland ownership (with 1+ acres) in Minnesota has 29 acres of wooded land. More than half (51%) of family owners have relatively small holdings between 1-9 acres, but 40% of the area of wooded land is owned by families with 100 acres or more. Because of the increased management options, program involvement, and other dynamics of larger ownerships, all the following results are for family woodland owners with 10 or more acres.
  • Beauty, privacy, wildlife, and nature are what matter: The most commonly cited reasons for owning wooded land in Minnesota are related to wildlife and nature protection, as well as the beauty and privacy the wooded land provides. 
  • They love their land: 90% of owners agree or strongly agree with the statement “I want my wooded land to stay wooded.” However, in the past five years, most had not used traditional land management practices like having a management plan (12%) or getting advice about their wooded land (10%).
  • Many cut trees: In the past five years, around half (52%) of family woodland owners have cut trees for their own use, and one in ten (10%) have cut trees for sale.
  • They are older: The average age of primary decision makers for family-owned woodland in Minnesota is 66 years. 19% of acres are owned by people who plan to transfer some or all of their wooded land in the next five years.

Woodland conservation and management depend on the people who own it. In Minnesota, many of these acres are held by individuals and families. We hope additional information about America’s woodland owners will lead to more recognition of the roles these people play and will further enhance programs and policies that help the owners, the land and society.

For more survey results, visit the USDA Forest Service’s National Woodland Owner Survey website. To learn more about the services and resources available to woodland owners in your state, contact your local forestry agency or association.

Emma Sass is a Research Fellow with the Family Forest Research Center and University of Massachusetts Amherst. Brett Butler is a Research Forester with the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and Family Forest Research Center.

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