The California Licensed Foresters Association, with a membership responsible for the sustained management of millions of acres of California forestland, represents the common interests of California Registered Professional Foresters.
The Association provides opportunities for continuing education and public outreach to its membership, which includes professionals affiliated with government agencies, private timber companies, consultants, the public, and the academic community.
Governed by an elected Board of Directors, CLFA was established in 1980 after the passage of the landmark California Professional Foresters Law.
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The CLFA Board continues to see greater opportunity for RPFs to engage with small landowners and is focusing time and energy each month towards that goal. We remain convinced that there is an economic and environmentally efficient sweet spot that will offer small landowners incentive to periodically manage their parcels for a wide array of benefits. Foresters can assist these landowners develop a long term management plan for their property and find the financial incentives necessary to execute the plan. Opportunity exists through timber harvest revenues, cost share programs, grants and conservation easements.
A relatively recent study points out that forest landowners with less than 50 acres are unlikely to participate in timber management. This represents a challenge to the forestry community because collectively these owners represent a significant piece of California’s forest resources. Increasing the complexity is that these owners are likely to have their primary residence on site, have a number of improvements on the property, have neighbors in close proximity, and will likely only harvest once or twice in their lifetimes, if at all. Most of these landowners have goals to be fire safe, create wildlife habitat, improve the general aesthetics and perhaps generate some income for specific events in their lives. The avenues we have to connect with these landowners to explore the viability of commercial operations or opportunities through cost share programs such as CFIP and EQIP are limited and underdeveloped. Great opportunities exist for consulting RPFs in this market, and current trends indicate this segment growing as average parcel sizes decrease with continued fragmentation of large tracts of timberland.
Another daunting challenge for dealing with these smaller landowners is the high up front cost of permitting, especially in the range of endangered species. Over the last month a few of your CLFA representatives met with Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) staff to discuss the costs of surveys for timber harvests. Endangered species have been one of the driving factors of increased permitting costs and increased harvest limitations over the recent years. Our main goal was to make DFW aware of the increased efforts and expenses required to conduct preoperational surveys. These increasing costs can result in either more aggressive harvesting or precluding management all together, especially on smaller acreages. The question that was left lingering from that conversation is are there silvicultural and harvest timing constraints that would be so unlikely to cause take that limited scale operations could occur with minimal survey efforts. This will be an ongoing conversation, but I think it was an important one to initiate.
Please weigh in on this conversation if you are an RPF working with small landowners or think you have some creative ideas for dealing with the challenges faced by this subset of landowners. We will be continuing our engagement with the Board of Forestry and DFW on this issue. The CLFA Board would welcome the feedback on this issue or any others that you see facing RPFs in the state.