Landowner barriers and preferences

Encouraging landowners to plan for the future of their land may mean creating a tool, but it may also mean updating or amending an existing tool to include the land or to better reflect current goals and circumstances.

35% have no formal tools
42% have a will only 
23% have a will and some other tool (usually a trust)

Though many landowners have at least some formal tool in place, over a third of surveyed landowners report having done no formal planning for the future of their land. For some landowners, their estate planning tools do not include some or all of their land, or do not achieve all their goals (e.g. financial, determining the future use of the land, and so on). This is a significant outreach opportunity.

Landowner Barriers

Though many landowners report wanting to determine who will own their land next and how it will be used, not all of them follow through with a formal conservation-based estate plan.

Landowners cited a number of barriers that keep them from moving forward:

30% Not ready to act
28% Need more information
22% Lack of time
19% Fairness to heirs
5% Uncomfortable

More Landowners Are Coming

The vast majority of landowners have children (85%) and grandchildren (65%). More than half of landowners (56%) know the number of people to whom they will be passing on their land; 58% of these landowners report that they will be passing the land on to two or three owners, while only 28% report that they will be passing it on to one owner. So, whereas just 10% of current landownerships are held by three or more people, that number is predicted to increase to 35%, which would be a significant increase in the number of owners. What these children will do with the land once they get it is unknown and an important area of future research. Outreach directed to the next generation of owners is critical so that they know their options for keeping the land undeveloped and undivided. Consider programs and resources targeting the next generation of owners, often the children of current owners.


There were significant differences in how men and women completed the survey:

· Women were less confident on how to move forward with planning the future of their land.
· Women were less certain they had the financial resources to move forward with their plans
· When women were confident in how to move forward, they were more likely to want to conserve their land

Experience engaging in outreach on this topic suggests that women play a very important role in decisions regarding the future of the land. The differences between men and women in the research suggests that addressing women’s confidence in moving forward with planning the future of the land will have positive conservation results. The findings reinforce the success of women-only programs, such as Women Owning Woodlands networks, and should be considered when planning outreach.

Information Needs

Landowners also cited the following information needs, which can serve as points of focus in outreach efforts:

27% Financial value of the land
26% Conservation easements
23% Ecological value of the land
22% Tax issues
21% Trust
15% Will
13% Ways to work with the family
11% Finding a local professional

Preferred Information Sources

Landowners noted their preferences for receiving information about planning the future of their land:

49% Mailed material
21% Meeting with a professional
17% Email / e-newsletter
15% Internet
15% Workshop
14% Other landowners
11% Seminar

The information found in this publication is based on the research findings and outreach experience of a team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the University of Maine, the University of Vermont, and Cornell University. Specific information about the research methods of this project and statistics for the individual states can be found here.