Potential effects of technical assistance foresters on pine planting on non-industrial private forestland in the South

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Over the next few decades, timber harvest levels on the South's non-industrial private forestlands (NIPFs) are projected to increase by 40 percent. These ownerships include 75 percent of the commercial timberland in the South, and account for 64 percent of the timber volume harvested in the region annually. Long-term sustained yield of softwood timber volumes from NIPFs depends on successful reforestation of harvested pine stands and afforestation of marginal agricultural lands. Available technical assistance is regarded as a significant factor in NIPP tree planting accomplishment.

This study compares technical assistance available to NIPFs from various sources and attempts to measure response to technical assistance in terms of acres planted. Four sources of technical assistance are considered: state forestry agencies, consulting foresters, industry landowner assistance departments, and industry procurement staffs. Extensive south-wide surveys of technical assistance available from these four sources were conducted to determine the types and degrees of assistance available. Cross-sectional comparisons were made between 29 sub-state zones in 12 southern states to explore variation in NIPF acres planted attributable to variation in technical assistance.

The surveys located just under 2,000 foresters having some professional involvement with southern landowners in 1985. The number of consulting foresters operating in the South seems to be growing, while the number of landowners enrolled in industry landowner assistance programs (LAPs) is also increasing. Assistance available to NIPF owners from all sources ranges from advice and recommendations to actual performance of site preparation and tree planting. The types and intensities of technical assistance are variable both within and across forester types.

A cross-sectional statistical analysis using multiple linear regression was unable to demonstrate a significant south-wide effect of technical assistance on NIPF tree planting. Within the range of technical assistance presently available, variation in technical assistance did not prove to be a significant predictor of tree planting accomplishment. The results of this study indicate that diversity in the NIPF population, combined with diversity in silvicultural and market potential pine production, prevents quantification of a regional effect of technical assistance. A positive correlation between forester numbers and NIPF tree planting accomplishments was found. But only timber harvest levels and cost share expenditures were significant predictors of acres planted in multiple variable models.