One of the defining characteristics of Woodland Retreat owners is that they think of their woods as a non-productive asset. This post looks at how this attribute affects their decisions, and what it means for engaging them in forestry.
What is a Non-Productive Asset?
In economic terms, assets are things you acquire with the goal of wealth creation. Productive and non-productive assets build wealth differently.
Productive assets are purchased with the expectation that they will generate income for the owner, like a farm, a business or a rental property.
Non-productive assets are inherently valuable things. They are owned primarily for the owner’s use and enjoyment (like a family home), but they are also expected to grow in value (like an art collection).
Survey studies and anecdotal data show that the majority of woodland owners see their woods as a non-productive asset. They own woods primarily for their personal use and enjoyment, and perhaps for the mental satisfaction of owning and preserving natural amenities. They also expect that the land will appreciate over time and can be a valuable addition to their children’s inheritance. In short, they treat their land like they would their home or their car, and not like their factory or rental property.
How does this matter?
First off, keep in mind that Woodland Retreat landowners are not thinking about improving their woods. Remember, a non-productive asset is inherently valuable and expected to retain its value over time. It’s not supposed to require effort to create value like a factory or a rental property does. Just realizing that their woods need “management” is a big shift for many landowners.
When they do consider a forestry project, their main concern is how the change will affect their use, enjoyment or appreciation of their woods. The only thing that tops that is protecting their woods against a threat.
Once they are convinced of the value of the project, then the financial factors become important—e.g., can we afford it?, and will this affect the land’s resale value?
And finally, landowners consider how difficult and disruptive the project will be, and assess whether they can fit it into their lives right now.
So, next time you’re designing a landowner engagement program, try to promote benefits that directly relate to how they use their woods and what they appreciate most about them. For some landowners this might be recreational opportunities; for others, it might mean preserving a beautiful place or helping wildlife. This is what will get them excited about the project.
Then do your best to address their concerns about resale value and project costs. Remember, landowners are probably thinking of this project as a discretionary expense, a “nice to have”. Help them figure out how to make the project cost-effective, e.g., by accessing incentive or grant funds, reducing their taxes, or generating income from cut trees.
Finally, do your best to make the project easy and interesting for landowners. Forestry is a job for you; it’s a hobby for landowners. Who wants a difficult and tedious hobby?