Small Ownerships: Overview

As of 1994, Minnesota’s 5.3 million acres of family forest were divided up among about 140,000 landowners.  According to the US Forest Service, between 1978 and 1994 in Minnesota, the number of woodland owners increased by 135%.  During that time, the average parcel size dropped by over 50%from 104 to 49.6 acres.

This process, called parcelization, can be problematic for woodland managers.  On a per-acre basis, the cost of managing smaller parcels is higher than the cost of managing larger parcels.  The high fixed costs associated with harvesting timber can make smaller harvests cost-prohibitive.

As a consequence, owners of smaller forested parcels have fewer options. Some cost-share programs are available only (or preferentially) to owners of parcels larger than 20 acres.

In addition to limited access to cost-sharing, owners of smaller parcels can be faced with significant forest management challenges.  Windstorms, insect outbreaks, and diseases can affect woodlands regardless of boundaries.  On smaller parcels though, the costs of treatments to reduce impacts can be prohibitively high.  This can lead to less treatment, which can lead to worse outbreaks in the long run.

If you own fewer than 20 acres of woodland in Minnesota, you may need to be creative to manage your land.  We’ve got some ideas to keep your family active in the woods together.  You’ll also find some information about reducing costs by co-ordinating management or collaborating across boundaries.  Working across borders can significantly reduce your costs.

Eli 's work addresses Minnesota forest ecology & management. He's based in St Paul.

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