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Forisk’s 2020 Survey of Private Forest Management in the U.S. South

This is the fourth in a series related to the Q2 2020 Forisk Research Quarterly (FRQ) which includes forest industry analysis and timber price forecasts for North America.

Forisk surveys private timberland owners and managers in the U.S. South every two years to summarize forest management trends and common silviculture practices. The 2020 survey is our fifth survey of southern timberland and represents one of the largest datasets available on forest management practices.  In total, 35 firms accounting for 28.3 million timberland acres in the U.S. South participated. Respondents provided separate responses for each of four geographic regions of the South, based roughly on physiographic provinces (Figure).

Figure. Survey Regions for 2020 Silviculture Survey


Key findings from the 2020 study include:

  • Chemical site preparation was deployed on 61% of acres in 2019, by far the most common method. Mechanical site prep methods were second most common, comprising single and double bedding, used almost exclusively in the Coastal Plain, and other mechanical treatments.
  • Second generation loblolly pine seedlings remain the most common seedling type planted in 2019, though combined acres of more advanced loblolly genetics, including both control mass pollinated (CMP) seedlings and 3rd generation loblolly, covered slightly more area.
  • Nearly 60% of managed acres across the South receive a fertilization treatment at some point in their rotation, with fertilized acres averaging 1.5 applications per rotation.
  • Acres in the Lower Coastal Plain required more intensive silviculture, with over 40% greater silviculture expenditures per acre per year than the South-wide average.
  • The average clearcut age of stands in 2019 was 29 years. Respondents report using a two-thinning regime on 39% of acres under management.


As the forest industry faces economic turmoil and uncertainty, the results from this survey affirm the continued commitment and interest in active forest management, optimizing investment returns, and the application of new technologies as they become available. Large landowners and forest managers are achieving strong yields across the South through targeted management regimes employing improved genetic stock, competition control and fertilization.

Forisk thanks all firms for their participation in the survey. A detailed overview of results is provided in the Q2 2020 Forisk Research Quarterly (FRQ) and will be available through the Forisk website. Additional details, including breakdowns by firm type and firm size as well as detailed costs and revenues, will be provided to survey participants.

Comments (2)

  1. Ervin Bielmyer / Reply

    The area of Southside Virginia is dominated by one company owning 3 paper mills that consume the majority of the pine pulpwood. With the price of pine pulpwood stumpage being pushed down, at what point will the timberland owners spend less money on good reforestation and timber management?

    • Shawn Baker / Reply

      Ervin, It is a good question and part of the value of these surveys. We have seen no real step back in forest management investment from the largest landowners. While our survey captures a number of the large forest management consultants, we don’t focus specifically on the smaller, private landowners to know how their objectives are changing. Most of the acres we survey are targeting sawtimber-length rotations, so sawtimber prices end up being a major driver for decision making. They’ve been low for over a decade, but we still see strong investment. – Shawn

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