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4/24/2018 » 4/25/2018
Forest InSight Conference West

6/26/2018 » 6/29/2018
2018 National Conference of Private Forest Landowners

6/18/2019 » 6/21/2019
2019 National Conference of Private Forest Landowners


Landowner Engagement
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By Melinda Gable

Stepping Up the Message


Timber talks and forest forums spotlight role of private forests in at-risk species conservation and environmental benefits; FLA events held in Georgia, Alabama.


FLA members hosted a “Timber Talk” with Congressman Jody Hice (GA-10) in Crawfordville, Ga., in November The day included a tour of the Timbermen mill led by mill owner Jim Hicks, Jr. and a tour of Margie Bidwell’s 150-acre timber property.

  Bidwell inherited the land in 2009 and is actively managing the property to maximize the soil and water benefits the forest provides. Timber harvests are an integral part of her management plan, funding the conservation activities Bidwell is undertaking.

 “A key objective of the day was to give Congressman Hice a look at both the market and regulatory landscape private forest landowners like Margie have to navigate to manage their land for maximum economic and societal value,” said FLA CEO Scott Jones.

   Mike Harris, the at-risk coordinator for Region 4 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also participated in the Timber Talk and benefited from the boots-on-the-ground experience. “FLA is actively working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop strategies to address regulatory uncertainty and how best to marry the objectives of species conservation and economic opportunity for landowners,” Harris said.

   Landowners face increasingly narrow margins for their wood fiber and at the same time are being looked to as a key component in the conservation of at-risk species, filtering the water supply to the Southeast’s suburban and urban areas, while trying to balance increasing regulations.

   Derek Dougherty, CEO and president of Dougherty & Dougherty, a forest management consultancy, pointed out that increased regulation and certification requirements add to an already challenging economic situation for landowners.

Jones said the biggest takeaway of the day was to give an in-person look at the collaboration and innovation that is so prevalent in the forestry and forest product value chain.

   “The point to the USFWS representatives and Congressman Hice was that private forest landowners continue to innovate to provide economic and environmental benefits to the country and for landowners to continue to be successful it’s imperative that policymakers better understand the impact excessive regulations have on those efforts,” Jones said.


FLA, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Host Forum at Auburn


FLA and representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) held a Forest Forum on Nov. 10 at Auburn to strengthen the relationship between forest landowners and the USFWS. FLA has been working with the FWS, Division of Conservation and Classification in Washington, D.C. and the Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta to establish open discussion and a better understanding of how family forest landowners can work with the FWS and meet forest management and economic objectives. The agenda and dialogue will focus on at-risk species listings, rulings and the impact on managing forestland for economic returns, as well as the utilization of cost-share programs.

   “Communication is the key to understanding that private forest landowners and the Service share the same value of healthy forests,” said FLA President Scott Rowland. “By forging relationships through Forest Forums we can avoid unintended consequences of unnecessary regulation created by a lack of understanding of how private forests are managed.”

    The Forest Forum offered both groups an opportunity to share their longterm goals and identify areas that can be built upon to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes. During the forum the USFWS walked private landowners through the process mandated by law it takes before, during and after a species has been proposed for protection under the ESA.

   “Engaging with private forest landowners is important because this job is too big for our agency to accomplish alone,” said Bill Pearson, field supervisor for the Alabama office of USFWS. “Listing a species is really a failure for us and we want to work with landowners to align their objectives to achieve mutual success.”

    Barrett McCall, President of Larson & McGowin, a forest management consultancy said, "Private forest landowners have been facing headwinds for a decade in the form of changing dynamics in the timber market. Decreasing demand for forest products and the loss of markets result in declining prices that create an economic decision to grow timber on shorter rotations. This can result in a decline in habitat for species that depend on larger timber and for the landowner less capital to invest back into the property which results in less management.”

    McCall went on to applaud both the FLA and the USFWS for promoting continued dialogue between the two constituencies. Pearson concluded the event by underscoring the vital role that private forest landowners play in the agency’s mission of species protection and habitat conservation.

   “Our biggest fear is that we would have to make a listing decision with insufficient information. Trust is the key so we can work with landowners to gather the information necessary to make the right decision,” he said.


FLA members respond quickly to IRS on the proposed change

More than 35 family forest stakeholders responded to FLA’s Call to Engage by sending comments to the IRS on the US Department of Treasury proposed changes to the way estates are valued in what is known as section 2704. 

FLA is supporting two bills in Congress aimed at stopping the proposed rule changes, working with partner associations and Congress on letters to Treasury highlighting the negative impact of the changes to landowners.  At print deadline, it remained unclear if the Treasury Department will to rush the proposed regulations through by enacting them before incoming Trump Administration.

Excerpts from FLA Call-To-Engage comments sent to IRS:


 “Together with my siblings and parents, I own thousands of acres of land in MA, CT, RI, and ME. These working lands were accumulated piece by piece, painstakingly over time, at great personal sacrifice. They are the source of our livelihood and they are essential to our ability to run our family business. We have spent significant effort to create an estate plan so these lands can be passed onto the next generation intact. If we cannot afford to transition our working lands to the next generation, our entire business model is dead. When landowners can't afford to keep their forests as forests, they must sell real estate, and forests are converted for development, causing forest fragmentation and habitat loss and a loss of the other ecological services the working lands provided. Don't put us in a position where we must liquidate our forest assets to pay the tax bill! Withdraw the proposed changes to section 2704.”

Mary Hull (Russell, Massachusetts)


 “This will be a disincentive to people following the American Dream of entrepreneurship and ingenuity and risking a new venture or acquisition. It also punishes those who have invested time and financial resources into longterm plans and dreams for their children and grandchildren.”

William Stewart (Montesano, Washington)


 “Farming in general is a laborious and slow process and tree farming is a lifetime investment and a lifestyle. If this proposed change goes through, I would have to abandon my environmental agenda and pursue contracts that maximize profit simply to generate enough income to hopefully be able to pass on my legacy to the next generation. I can’t just put my trees on eBay or Craigslist and get the market valueThese proposed changes would greatly harm and could possibly even destroy the family forestry operations that still exist in America.”

Hanna Gamble (Shreveport, Louisiana)


 “I'm a smaller forest landowner who works the forest for total ecosystem benefits - wildlife habitat, endangered species habitat, etc. It takes acreage to do this; forest fragmentation into smaller blocks is a large cause of habitat loss for threatened and endangered species. The discount that has traditionally been applied to a portion of a closely held entity has been applied for one reason only: it reflects market reality. To eliminate that in valuing shares for estate tax purposes not only would have a devastating effect on the ground in terms of forced sales, fragmentation of forests, etc., it would also do something that is impossible to do - it would strive to alter reality.  Despite the best of intentions, nobody has been able to alter reality yet.  This proposal needs to go back into the dustbin of unworkable ideas.”

James Currie (Picayune, Mississippi)


 “We are a fourth-generation company that owns and manages forests in Oregon. My grandfather founded the business in 1936. We have organized as an S corp. and as an LLC to better manage our businesses and to facilitate multi-generational ownership. This has allowed us to adopt a conservative forest management style where we grow our trees for more than one generation, thus providing better more varied habitat for fish and wildlife, as well as larger trees for harvest. The 2704 regulations are critical to being able to continue this business from generation to generation. The regulations recognize the realities of the market when selling an undivided interest in an ongoing business. The changes to the regulations will result in values that are not achievable in the real marketplace, thus taxing us out of business.”

Bond Starker (Corvallis, Oregon)


 “Please consider that tax increases on family forests encourage the sale or division of manageable parcels and lead to a reduction of forest cover overall. If you care about the environment, please pursue policies that encourage active forest management.”

Joseph Secoges (Clemmons, North Carolina)


 “I'm disappointed that the IRS is taking this action which is an important part of my family's estate planning.  We are a family forestry business with our roots back to 1942.  We have struggled with estate taxes on two previous occasions. We used the marketability rules to discount the estate to enable us to retain the family business. Your rule change will make it more difficult for family owned farms and businesses to pass assets from one generation to the next.  In our case, that means that more forestlands will be broken up and sold to developers. We do a lot as a private industry to ensure clean air and water. Surely you don't want to jeopardize that.” DJ Boyles (Lee, Florida)


 “I am a third-generation member of a family business that has invested in several thousands of acres in timberland to promote sustainable forests and to improve wildlife habitat in the Louisiana and Mississippi area. We would have to sell a large part of our timberland acreage to pay the taxes and with several family members being involved, it would be very difficult to sell partial interest in timberland.  If we must sell a partial interest, we will not get the appraised value of the land and if someone outside of the family purchases the interest, it would mess up our plan of sustainable forests and wildlife habitat improvements. So, please do not change the discounts that family businesses like mine use to continue operating sustainable forests, which is essential to our local economy.”

John Jackson (Jackson, Louisiana)


 “If the rule changes and does away with the family partnership capability of passing on the property to our children, we doubt we could pass on the property within the lifetime of myself and my sisters, and the estate tax due would be devastating.  We would have to sell immature timber and possibly the farm to pay the estate taxes.”

Jane G. Baxter (Nashville, Tennessee)





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