Both in my job as a land agent and land manager, I often hear the excuse from older landowners that they don’t plan to reforest (that is, plant trees) on land they just harvested because “Why would I? I won’t live to see those trees mature.” After wishing them a long and healthy life, I like to give the following three reasons for why they should consider planting, even in the off-chance that they head for greener pastures before the trees can be harvested. [Disclaimer: I am neither a graduate nor registered forester. The below advice is my opinion based upon experience working in both the land management and land sales fields. Please consult a registered forester for reforestation assistance.]
- It’s Good for Your Investment Portfolio: The money that you spend on reforestation isn’t money that you’re throwing away. It’s a direct investment back into the overall land value. If it costs you $10,000 to plant trees today, you could turn around and sell your land for $10,000 more tomorrow than you could yesterday. And that investment will increase in value every day as those trees mature. Pre-merchantable tree value is a calculation I regularly make on land listings to make sure the Seller is getting paid the full value for his or her timber asset at closing time. Also, productive property is much easier to sell than unproductive property. If you don’t intend to sell your property, then by planting now you will be handing down a growing investment to your heirs rather than an unproductive piece of property that will, by that time, be much more costly to put back into production. It’s good financial practice.
- It’s Good for the Land: If your land isn’t growing pine trees, it will still grow something. That something is usually briars, weeds and lower genetic hardwoods and pine that will take many more years to mature than a pine plantation. As these less productive species grow, the cost to put the property back into planted pine production increases exponentially as the regrowth becomes larger and harder to control by conventional forestry means. The growth of the natural stand will also stagnate very quickly. Unless your goal is to have a natural forest in 75 years (which I’m less optimistic that you’ll live to see), keeping the land productive and actively managed will preserve aesthetics, reduce costs, promote wildlife habitat and protect against wildfire threats and disease, among other reasons. It’s good land management.
- It’s Good for Everyone Else: The Florida Forestry Association (floridaforest.org) has a slogan that I think captures this point nicely – “Working Forests Work.” Keeping land in timber production that would otherwise be left to become an overgrown mess has many societal benefits. Forest products help produce over 5,000 items that we use in our day-to-day lives. Just in Florida, the forest industry has a $14.6B impact on the state economy and provides over 76,000 jobs. Productive forests also clean the air and water better than a stagnated natural forest resulting from a clearcut. A 2012 study by the University of Florida calculated the estimated value of managed forestland to be over $5,000 per acre when including water purification, carbon stocks, timber and wildlife. It’s good land stewardship.
It’s tough to spend the money on reforestation knowing that you might not be around to see the trees mature. But I think the reasons above make a compelling case for why it’s a good idea for your pocket, your land, and your community. I welcome more good reasons, or thoughts to the contrary. Feel free to comment.
Daniel Hautamaki, Land Agent, Southeastern Land Group
 “Working Forests Work” brochure: http://floridaforest.org/wp-content/uploads/WFW-ad-for-Fresh-From-FL.pdf
 University of Florida, IFAS: Stewardship Ecosystem Services Survey Project: http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/CFEOR/docs/EcosystemServices.FloridaStewardshipReport.Jul2012.pdf