Small-scale and Amenity Focused Forestry: Filling a Market Niche

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Virginia Tech


Urbanization, changing forest landowner values, and restructuring forest industry are creating challenges for the active management of small parcels of forestland. Many traditional service providers are reluctant to service small acreage parcels due to economies of scale, shrinking profit margins for unprocessed stumpage, and changing landowner expectations. They do not understand traditional forestry operations and do not know where to look for service providers. A gap in our nation's forest system has emerged.

A new market opportunity exists for service providers willing to work with small-scale forest landowners. In this study, over sixty forest service providers working with small acreage or amenity oriented clients were interviewed to determine how their business is structured, how they charge for the services they provide, what reactions they get from their clients, and how successful they perceive themselves to be. Informants came from a wide variety of professional backgrounds, including forestry, logging, arboriculture, landscaping, and woodworking. In addition, about 20 public-forest professionals were interviewed to determine how they and their programs are changing in response to emerging conditions.

Successful service providers generally charge by some measure of time and materials rather than by commission. They exhibit a willingness to diversify their business to offer a bundle of services, and to cooperate with professionals in related industries. Value-added processing and creative marketing assist service providers in achieving a profit from small-scale tracts with traditionally low-value products. Lessons learned from these early adopters will assist other service providers interested in working with small acreage private landowners.



small-scale forestry service providers, amenity values, diversification, payment structure, cooperation, green infrastructure, forest fragmentation, market-based solutions