Helping Landowners Plan for the Future of Their Land

We are in the midst of the biggest intergenerational shift of land that our country has ever seen. Nationally, roughly 2.7 million family forest owners who are over fifty-five years old and reflect 80% of all family forest-owned land will soon be deciding the future ownership and use of their land. In fact, almost one-third of landowners in the Northeast report that they will be making decisions about their land’s future ownership and use in the next five years. The result of these decisions (or non-decisions) will determine whether the land is developed, parcelized, conserved, or unchanged. Our research suggests that almost half of landowners are interested in keeping most or all of their forest in forest use, and two-thirds want to keep their property intact, with little or no parcelization. This is very good news! However, we need to help move landowners from good intentions to action.

The importance of your role

Landowners often turn to local professionals with whom they have a trusted relationship for the “facts”—technical knowledge about their land and their options. Landowners often turn to peers— respected friends, neighbors, and community leaders—to provide information and options and to help them think it all through. Landowners view peers as being trusted, unbiased sources of local information. Peers with experience in making these same types of decisions are particularly helpful and can share insights into the process, including aspects that went well and, equally important, aspects that didn’t go well. Conversations with peers are critical in helping landowners digest the technical information and gain an understanding of how each option may meet their needs.

Importantly, whether you’re a professional or a peer, you don’t need to be an expert in estate planning to help a landowner with this decision! The importance of your role is that you are a trusted source of information. Landowners will ask for your help and listen to your advice because they trust you. Come through for them by connecting them to people, resources, or organizations that can help give them the conservation-based estate planning information they need to make an informed decision that is right for them and their family.  

What is conservation-based estate planning?
Understanding landowner goals
Triggers for landowner decision-making
Landowner barriers and preferences to planning
Tips for talking one-on-one with a landowner
Tips for organizing an outreach event