U.S. Forest Service seeks public comments on the National Woodland Owner Survey

Most of the forest land in the United States is owned by private corporations, families, individuals, and other private entities. The U.S. Forest Service has routinely conducted a National Woodland Owner Survey (NWOS) to increase understanding of the attitudes and behaviors of these forest owners and managers, including intended uses of their forest land. The resulting information has been used to assess the sustainability and availability of forest resources, implement and assess forest-land owner assistance programs, and for many other purposes.

Previous iterations of the NWOS were conducted in 1978, 1993, 2002–2006, and 2011–2013. However, the Forest Service intentionally allowed approval for information collection through the NWOS to lapse after 2013 to permit a full assessment of the program that has now been completed.

Recently, the Forest Service announced that it is soliciting public comment on the proposed reinstatement, with changes, to information collection through the NWOS. If reinstated, the NWOS would operate for another three-year cycle and collect information related to the characteristics of the land holdings, attitudes and perceptions of the owners and managers, resource uses and management activities, and, where applicable, landowner demographics. 

The Forest Service is proposing to develop separate survey instruments for families and individuals, corporate, and public ownerships. In addition, owners in urban areas will be sent a different survey instrument. A subset of families and individuals, in addition to receiving the core survey instrument, will also be surveyed about the following topics: climate change, wildfires, invasive species; land owner values, and decision making.

More details about the proposed reinstatement of the NWOS and the proposed methods are in the April 9 issue of the Federal Register (Vol. 80, Issue 68, pp. 19065–19067). Public comments must be received by June 8, 2015.