Determinants of private forest management decisions: A study on West Virginia NIPF landowners
The availability of timber in the United States depends largely on forest management and investment decisions of nonindustrial private forest landowners since they hold the largest share of forest land in the nation. Since NIPF landowners are so diverse, there is a need to better understand the determinants of their decisions so that policies could be in place to motivate them. A survey was carried out in 2005 to the nonindustrial private forest landowners of West Virginia to examine the factors affecting their forest management decisions. The study looked at four categories of decisions related to forest management: timber harvest, silvicultural activities (i.e., tree planting, herbicide application, fertilization, thinning, grapevine control, and timber stand improvement), property management activities (i.e., road construction, road maintenance, surveying/boundary maintenance, and access control), and wildlife habitat management and recreation improvement activities. Four models were developed to examine factors affecting each category of forest management activity. The results showed that landowner, ownership, and management characteristics of NIPF landowners are associated with their forest management decisions. Specifically, age, education, profession, income, ownership size, period of forestland acquisition, distance of the forestland to the place of residence, whether the forestland was purchased or acquired through inheritance or as a gift, primary objective of forestland ownership, and presence of a written forest management plan were found to be significant determinants for at least one of the categories of forest management activities. The models explained 25%, 27%, 31%, and 24% of the variation in timber harvesting, silvicultural activities, property management activities, and wildlife habitat management and recreation improvement activities, respectively. Understanding the underlying factors influencing forest management decisions of this diverse group of forest landowners could form the basis for developing, modifying and targeting policy instruments to motivate NIPF landowners in forest management.
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