By Jason Fisher
District Extension Agent, Forestry and Natural Resources
There are approximately 16 million acres of forestland in Virginia. About 9.8 million acres, or nearly 61 percent, are owned by approximately 521,000 individuals and families (VDOF, 2018).
Forty-one percent of these acres are owned by landowners over the age of 65, placing much of this acreage in jeopardy of conversion and changing ownership goals. The health and integrity of these natural systems that we rely on for clean water, air, wildlife, recreation and more, are closely tied to management decisions made by family forest owners.
Foremost, among a host of management decisions, is whether to keep the land in forest and farms or to convert it to another land-use. Recent high land values and taxes have tempted or even forced many landowners to sell their land just to meet these financial obligations. With land ownership changing at a rapid pace in Virginia, new landowners continually seek advice in how to best manage their timberland and farmland for future generations.
Some families have owned their land for multiple generations and others for only a few years. Regardless, as they look ahead, many landowners want to keep their land in the family but don’t know where to begin or how to engage the next generation. Even if there are no immediate siblings, the desire to keep working forestland and farmland intact for the next owner requires some planning. If these issues concern you, an upcoming Family Forest Landowner workshop series is a great place to start. Here, professional advice and experience from other landowners will be shared as well as tools available for families to work with.
These programs help family forest landowners successfully plan the transfer of their woodlands and farmland, intact, from one generation to the next. Speakers include legal and financial experts experienced in estate planning, forest landowners who have successfully navigated the succession planning landscape, as well as natural resource professionals who work with landowners to conserve and manage land. Current and future owners of family woodlands will learn the basics of family communications, estate planning tools, and succession planning strategies to help ensure the family woodland legacy.
The management decisions made by family forest owners play a crucial role in maintaining a viable forestland base in Virginia. These family woodlands are relied upon for not only the sustained flow of forest products, but for invaluable natural benefits, such as clean air and water, wildlife habitat and overall quality of life.
These programs have been offered going on their 13th year in the Commonwealth – and this year is virtual and condensed due to the pandemic restrictions. But don’t hesitate, as these programs only come around once every couple of years for our area and will fill up.
Participants should attend both dates. For a fee, class supplies and meals are provided. Further details will be shared once registrations are received. If you don’t have a full legacy plan for your land, consider participating in the Legacy Planning Webinar Series called Generation NEXT.
This award-winning program is sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Department of Forestry. A virtual spring and fall workshop series are being offered starting April 7-8 and 14-15 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Cost is $25 for one workshop, or $35 for both, and allows as many family members as have internet access to participate together.
Contact your local Extension office for more information or go to https://ext.vt.edu/natural-resources/legacy-planning/training.html. Alternatively, contact Jason Fisher at 434-476-2147 at X3389 for questions or firstname.lastname@example.org for a mail-in application form, if necessary.
If you are a person with a disability and desire any assistive devices, services or other accommodations to participate in this activity, contact the Halifax Extension office at 434-476-2147 during business hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to discuss accommodations 5 days prior to the event. *TDD number is (800) 828-1120.