The Untold Story of an American Tradition

Many people enjoy visiting our nation’s forestland. They are appreciated for their beauty, as well as for the clean air and water they provide every day. And, they are relied on for the many wood and paper products that are so valuable to our lives. But most Americans do not know who owns and cares for U.S. forestland.

Eighty percent of Americans incorrectly believe that government or industry own the majority of our country’s forestland. However, private landowners own the largest single chunk of our forests. About half of the U.S. forestland is owned collectively by more than 10 million families and individuals who are responsible for ensuring that our forests remain healthy and abundant for generations to come. They are family forest owners, but more importantly, they are stewards of the land. These families play a critical role in the lifecycles of the forests. They manage the forests from planting and caring for seedlings to harvesting trees to be put to good use.

Most of the time, these family forests are passed on through generations, with the responsibility and tradition passing down to children and grandchildren. It is with great respect for nature and the environment that these families conduct their business, providing invaluable products and goods through responsible, sustainable forestry.

Many family forest owners open their land to visitors and offer tours. Many also provide valuable benefits to their community, and the country by:

  • Protecting special biological, historical or cultural sites
  • Turning worn-out land into rich, diverse and productive forests
  • Restoring streams and ponds, and protecting at-risk habitat
  • Offering outdoor classrooms to teach children about the environment, and learn by doing
  • Providing recreational activities such as cross-country skiing, hiking and fishing
  • Establishing bed and breakfasts to invite travelers to experience the outdoors

The American Forest Foundation (AFF) operates the American Tree Farm System, which holds a mission to promote the growing of renewable forest resources on private lands while protecting environmental benefits and increasing public understanding of all benefits of productive forestry. Through this system, AFF awards certification based on standards of sustainability.

If you would like to learn about the family forestry ethic and tradition, a network of certified family forest owners is available. To set up an interview with a family in your area, please contact Caron Gremont, 202-973-2940 or [email protected].