Forest Ownership

Fast Facts: Who Owns America's Forests? 

About 7.5 percent of the world’s forests are in the United States; and all together, U.S. forests cover over 741 million acres. There are three primary forest ownerships in the U.S.: federal, state, and private. Federal and state agencies manage public lands for a multitude of uses, including conservation, production, and recreation.

      The federal government owns and manages 238,469,000 acres (96,505,000 hectares) in total, made up of:
  • USDA Forest Service lands: 145,229,000 acres (58,772,000 hectares)
  • Bureau of Land Management lands: 38,104,000 acres (15,420,000 hectares)
  • And other lands managed by the U.S. National Park Service and the Department of Defense): 55,137,000 acres (22,313,000 hectares)
      State, county, and municipal governments own and manage 82,700,000 acres (33,468,000 hectares)
      Private entities own and manage 445,071,000 acres (180,114,000 hectares) in total, made up of:
  • Private corporate ownership: 147,460,000 acres (59,270,000 hectares)
  • Private non-corporate ownership: 297,600,000 acres (120,434,000 hectares)

Did You Know? Over 50% of U.S. forestland is owned and managed by more than 10 million private owners, with the top percentage being ‘family and individual’ owned parcels of forest lands averaging less than 10 ha in size. These owners represent a diverse group of people who have many reasons for owning their forest land. You can find more forest landowner statistics, including the ones cited above, by clicking here.

Category of Forests in the United States

One of the most robust, longest running national forest inventory and analysis system(s) in the world - the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA) - has been in continuous operation since 1930 with a mission to “make and keep current a comprehensive inventory and analysis of the present and prospective conditions of and requirements for the renewable resources of the forest and rangelands of the U.S.” Using the latest technologies to acquire data through remote sensing and field activities, and in cooperation with states, industry, academia, and private landowner partners, the FIA reports on the most current information about forest health and productivity in each state every five years (FIA Fact Sheet Series 2/3/05).

In the U.S., there are lands designated specifically for timberland/production use, as well as reserved forest; however, many lands are considered multiple use forestland (in other words, the forestland is managed and used for a combination of production, protection, recreation, aesthetics and other services that forests provide) (US FS-1036, August 2014).

Based on FIA 2012 data:

  • Recognized Timberland: 521,400,000 acres (211,003,000 hectares)
  • Reserved Forests (lands not managed for timber harvest, and harvest prohibited by law on these lands in most cases): 74,132,000 acres (30,000,000 hectares), not including some protected areas, such as the national forest roadless areas.
  • Other forests (woodlands, scrub forests, urban forests): 187,800,000 acres (76,000,000 hectares)

Breakdown of forest land by ownership categories:

  • Federal: 31%(238,496,000 acres)
  • State, county, and
    municipal: 10%(82,700,000 acres)
  • Private: 59%(445,071,000 acres)

Category of Forests in the United States:

  • Recognized timberland:
    67% (521,400,000)
  • Reserved Forests:9%(74,132,000 acres)
  • other Forests:24%(187,800,000 acres)