How Sustainability Certification and Renewable Biomass Mandates Threaten Nonindustrial Private Forests
Reed Watson, Property and Environment Research Center
Commissioned by the Forest Landowner Foundation
Nonindustrial private forests cover about 360 million acres in the United States, or roughly one-half of the nation’s total forested acres.1 These forests produce more than 60 percent of the nation’s annual wood harvest;2 and, in several regions of the country, they are the primary source of pulp, lumber, plywood, and other wood products.3 Nonindustrial private forests also generate a host of.nontimber benefits such as water purification, carbon sequestration, .wildlife habitat, and open space – usually at no cost to surrounding communities.4
Despite their economic and environmental output, nonindustrial private forests are in jeopardy. Since the 1990s, the conversion of forestland to developed uses has exceeded one million acres per year.5 Driving much of this conversion is the demand for residential housing and, more precisely,.the disparity in profits between developing forested land versus keeping it in timber production.6 Ironically, recent initiatives aimed at rewarding environmental stewardship on private forests could accelerate forest.conversion..
This report evaluates the impact of two such policies: sustainability certification and renewable biomass mandates. The first section.provides a background on nonindustrial private forests.Section two outlines the.economics drivers of private forest conversion. Sections three and four explain.how sustainability certification and the renewable fuel standard could reduce.the environmental productivity of nonindustrial private forests by reducing their economic profitability. Section.five concludes.