USDA Forest Service

Forest Inventory and Analysis National Program


Forest Inventory & Analysis
National Office
U.S. Forest Service
1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-0003

(703) 605-4177

United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

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U.S. Forest Service, National Woodland Owner Survey

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the National Woodland Owner Survey?

The USDA Forest Service's National Woodland Owner Survey is a survey of the individuals and private companies and organizations that own nearly two-thirds of the forest and woodland across the U.S.

The purpose of this survey is to answer questions related to:

  • What types of people and organizations own America's forests and woodlands?
  • Why do they own these lands?
  • What have they done with these lands in the past?
  • What do they plan to do with these lands in the future?

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. The first national woodland owner survey was conducted in 1978 followed by iterations completed in 1994, 2006, and 2013, and 2018.

How often is the National Woodland Owner Survey conducted?

The National Woodland Owner Survey contacts landowners on annual basis with a full survey cycle completed every five years. Only a small subset of woodland owners are contacted and no owner will be contacted more than once during a state survey cycle.

What types of questions are asked?

The survey asks questions related to:

  • The general characteristics of the landowner's woodland;
  • Reasons for why they own woodland;
  • How they use their woodland;
  • If and how their woodland is managed;
  • How landowners learn about their woodland;
  • The landowner's concerns related to their woodland;
  • Intended future uses of their land; and
  • 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 the results range from government agencies to local landowner organizations to forestry consultants to educators. 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 an area so that local groups and service providers can better communicate and understand the views of the woodland owner community.

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 these shortcomings.

How does this information help forest landowners?

The National Woodland Owner Survey helps private woodland owners in a myriad of 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.

USDA Forest Service
Last Modified: October 22, 2020

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