The Consultant - 2010 - (Page 24)

FEATURE Making Numbers Tell the Truth BY L. KEVILLE LARSON, ACF n spite of many complaints, criticisms and challenges common in the news, the forestlands of America (especially the private sector) are in better condition today than at any time in the past 100 years. Yet, because bad news sells, the public perceives otherwise. Even though timber volume has increased by 30 percent since 1952 and the U. S. Forest Service (USFS) projects an additional 50 percent increase by 2050, many still believe we are cutting too much timber. There is more care, awareness and attention to environmental conditions, including endangered species, water and air quality, and wildlife and biodiversity than ever before. Still, a negative public impression persists. The truth is in the numbers and data from scientists. But a major obstacle is the misuse and/or selective use of credible information. As professionals, ACF consultants need to distinguish between the facts and interpretations of the facts which may be biased or self-serving. The USFS, many state agencies and other groups collect valuable information about forestland ownership and conditions. We should be grateful for this information. The next step, interpretation and recommendations, is where caution and judgment are needed. For instance, USFS statistics tell us there are 11 million owners of private forestland in the U.S. Of these owners, only 10 percent use a professional forester and 5 percent have a written management plan. The frequent interpretation is that private lands are not well managed. The implied recommendation is that all owners should use a professional forester and have a written management plan. Sounds great for consultants! Let’s see, 10 million owners without plans, 2 days per plan for 10 million plans is 20 million days. If 1,000 consultants produced a management plan every two days, it would take 80 years to give the current landowners their first plan. Perhaps ACF could seek stimulus money to do this job! This interpretation is faulty and the recommendation is wrong and impractical. There is little need, if any, for a written management plan on property of the nearly 10 million owners with less than 100 acres. In my opinion, the six million owners with one to nine acres should not be in the forestland category. There are mighty few loggers operating on that small a property. Those with one to nine acres are more likely “homeowners with acreage.” Previous studies suggest that for private forestlands greater than 100 acres (family and business), about 50 percent are covered by written management plans. In addition, is it possible that the one million owners with greater than 100 acres are the 10 percent using a professional forester? The Forest Service, through the National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) completed in 2006, has documented many “family forest” ownership trends such as increasing number, age and diversity of landowners as well as a shift to more professional and absentee ownerships. All good information, but others take such trends THE CONSULTANT 2010 I 24

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The Consultant - 2010

Executive Director’s Message
President’s Message
Putting Forests, Forestry and Forest Products on the Nation’s Agenda
The Average American Family Forest Owner
Growing Your Business in the Current Recession
Engaging Family Woodland Owners: A Social Marketing Approach
Making Numbers Tell the Truth
Where Are the Conflicts of Interest in Timber Sale Fees?
Marketing Your Business
Income Tax on Cost Share Payment from the Forest Health Protection Program
Improving Appraisals for Tax Reporting Purposes
Expert Witnessing
Meet Paddy Bruton… Again
Being Jim Spitz
The View from the Rockies
Musings of an Endangered Species, or What to do After the Rapture

The Consultant - 2010