National Woodland Owner Survey
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the National Woodland Owner Survey?
In 1994, there were an estimated 10,000,000 private woodland
owners in the United States. The USDA Forest Service's National
Woodland Owner Survey is an annual survey of these individuals
and organizations that own over two-thirds of the woodland
in the U.S. The purpose of this survey is "to increase
our understanding of private woodland owners - the critical
link between forests and society." In free societies,
such as our own, it is the landowners who ultimately decide
how a given piece of land will be used. But landowners are
a part of a larger social fabric that has written rules and
unwritten norms about how land should be used. The survey
creates a dialogue between landowners and the rest of society
so that needs and concerns of the landowners can be heard
What is the history of the National Woodland Owner Survey?
Surveys of private woodland owners began in earnest in United
States following World War II. The first survey work was
concentrated in New England and the Lake States, but soon
spread to other parts of the U.S. Initially, universities
were the primary institutions conducting these surveys, but
soon federal and state agencies began implementing landowner
surveys as well. The first national woodland owner survey
was conducted by the USDA Forest Service in 1978 and was
subsequently followed by another national survey in 1994.
How often is the National Woodland Owner Survey conducted?
The National Woodland Owner Survey is now being conducted
on an annual basis; every year, we are contacting more forest-land
owners from across the United States. It will take us 5 to
10 years to complete the current cycle of ownership surveys
in a state. Landowners will be asked to fill-out a questionnaire
no more than once during a state's inventory cycle. The implementation
plan for the National Woodland Owner Survey after the initial
base-line surveys are completed is still being developed.
What types of questions are asked?
The eight sections of the survey ask questions related to:
- The general characteristics of the landowner's woodland;
- Reasons for why they own woodland;
- How they use their
- If their woodland is managed, how is it managed;
landowners learn about their woodland;
- The landowner's
concerns about using their woodland;
- Intended future
uses of their land; and
- Some general demographic information.
How will the data collected be used?
All information provided by respondents to the National
Woodland Owner Survey is held in strict confidentiality.
By law, no information is allowed to be released to anyone
- be they another government agency or a private citizen
- that can be used to identify an individual who provides
information to the Survey. The information collected will
only be used to produce statistical reports of general trends
in landowner attributes.
Groups that will use this data range from the Congress of
the United States to local landowner groups and forestry
consultants. Government agencies use the information collected
by the National Woodland Owner Survey to design programs
to assist landowners and to allocate funds once the programs
are initiated. At more local levels, the information is used
to understand the people that own the forest resources in
area so that local groups and service providers can better
communicate and understand the views of the woodland owner
Why are questions about demographics, such as age and race,
asked? How are these data used?
The demographic questions asked in this survey are used
to help assess the state of the forests of our country. For
example, one of the major issues facing private forests in
this country is the aging of the forest landowners with nearly
a third of the landowners being over 65 years old. As landowners
age, the incentive for them to perform certain activities
on their land, such as planting trees, changes and the probability
that their land will be changing hands increases. In addition,
this information is used to make sure that programs designed
to help forest landowners are accessible to everyone. For
example federal and state forest agencies will know if a
segment of the forest landowner population, be they an age,
economic, or a minority group, are not receiving forestry
assistance and can then redesign their programs to over-come
How does this information help forest landowners?
As alluded to above, the National Woodland Owner Survey
helps private woodland owners in myriad ways. On a broad
scale, it helps create a dialogue between landowners and
the rest of society. Although individual landowners and landowner
organizations do communicate with the rest of society on
a regular basis, having scientific information pertaining
to this important and diverse group of people has proven
to be a very effective communication tool. From a political
perspective, this information helps politicians and government
agencies quantify trends in woodland ownership and design
programs that meet the needs of both the landowners and the
broader needs of society. In particular, the information
from this survey is used to allocate funding for various
landowner assistance programs. The private sector also finds
this information useful be they consulting foresters providing
services to the landowners or large corporations that need
to know what types of products they can expect to receive
from private lands.