Forestry’s only family business conference drew a diversity of family forest owners from across the country.

Every year, the FLA conference attracts a diversity of attendees, and this year we witnessed an increase across the spectrum in families and forestry stakeholders gathering to learn, network and bond over their unquestionable commitment to the future of private forests in America.

The Forest Landowners Association headed west for the first time since 2013 for its annual Family Forest Business Conference. The higher elevation of the Resort at Squaw Creek, nestled in Olympic Valley, California, proved an appropriate vantage point for an organization taking a long-term view.

The mood was upbeat, yet cautious for the future of timber markets. FLA CEO Scott Jones, speaking on the opening day of the conference, stressed the need for forest landowners to be recognized for the economic and environmental contributions they provide society.

“Without markets, we cannot be successful and private forests won’t be sustained. We’re working with Congress and the administration to enact an agenda to ensure healthy markets and commonsense regulations. We’re walking through the doors now and we’re advocating and seeing success with this advocacy work.”

“We are certainly about forestry and conservation but what sets us apart is first and foremost that we are a landowner organization,” said outgoing FLA President Robert Crosby, who completed his two-year term at the conference and passed the gavel to Barrett McCall. “Others work to protect the forests, but we work to sustain those who own the forests.  Without markets, you will have fewer family-owned forests.”

What we noted at this year’s conference.

  • The geographical diversity of attendees, representing forest ownership in 28 states.
  • Diversity in the age of attendees. Looking at attendees, we see a strong, bright and engaged next generation of family forest landowners coming on the scene as emerging leaders.
  • Multi-generational families grow in number as forest land continues to be passed down; new first-time attendees of thirty-somethings increased in attendance as they prepare to be more involved in the family forestry business.
  • Diversity in acre ownership. We are seeing small acre ownerships of 300 acres, as well as families increasing their portfolio beyond 100,000 acres.
  • Multi-generational ownership with long histories is strong at the FLA conference, with ownerships dating back before Georgia was a state and when Mississippi was still under the reign of the French.
  • Pride in being a family forest landowner is stronger than ever.
  • We’ve seen recent gains in private property rights and are hopeful that this trend will continue, both through executive actions and Supreme Court decisions.

Notable Quotes from this year’s conference

Education is a big problem and it begins with us. It’s our job to set the record straight about forests as a renewable resource. I grew up a tree hugger. When we started harvesting trees to pay property taxes, I realized timber markets were good and necessary to keep our land as a forest. Alex Richman, Cumberland Springs Land Company

We lean on FLA to engage on the regulatory issues on our behalf. It’s a dangerous world out there, and we’ve got to do our part to engage. We are private, humble folks. We don’t do a lot of promoting but probably should do more. FLA’s work day in and day out keeps us on the right track. William Van Devender, Claw Forestry

The best stewards of our natural resources remain private property rights and healthy markets. We should never fail to pursue each with equal diligence.” Andy Barrs, Barrs Industries

Everything is micro markets. If you’re pessimistic this is not the business for you. You must be optimistic. We are working through the glut of oversupply. Michael Crowell, Crowell Forest Resources

“Half of my job is PR having to prove we are doing the right thing. There is a big disconnect on family forestland and our stewardship.” Pete Herron, Co-Manager, Herron Industries

“It was hard not to smile during the FLA conference with great speakers and a beautiful facility, all framed with the backdrop of snowcapped Carson Range of the Sierra Mountains.   Sorry if you missed it as you will likely hear people talking about it for several years to come.” Barrett McCall, Larson and McGowin

View conference photos on Google