In the United States, about 35% of the forestland is owned by 10 million family forest owners. Most of these owners hold relatively small tracts of land; however, their collective management behavior has an enormous impact on the sustainability of the nation’s forests. A variety of policies and programs have been developed to inspire conservation on private lands. Prominent among these are tax incentives (e.g., reduced property, estate and inheritance taxes), favorable tax credits and deductions, favorable capital gains treatment of timber income, as well as incentives linked to specific stewardship practices such as wildlife protection, recreation, and reforestation. 

The American Forest Foundation ( ) is providing researchers from the Family Forest Research Center ( ) at the University of Massachusetts with funding to compile an up-to-date, comprehensive understanding of existing tax policies and programs across the country, particularly at the state and local levels, and their impacts on family forest owners. The project, led by Dr. David Kittredge of University of Massachusetts and Dr. Brett Butler of the US Forest Service, will undertake a three pronged approach to understanding tax policy for family forest owners: 1) review and compare existing state and local family forest tax policies in all 50 states, 2) analyze the historic and projected impacts of tax policies on family forest owners, and 3) identify tax policies that would best encourage keeping family forests as forests and increasing sustainable forest management.

The research results will be compiled and disseminated through the booklet, white paper, journal articles, and fact-sheets, all in a coordinated effort to inform tax policy affecting family forest owners.