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Because plans for large-scale landscape preservation in the US do not rely exclusively on lands held in trust, conservation programs have a vested interest in forest stewardship by private landowners. Selective harvests for commercial sale are often highlighted as a financial incentive for owners of non-industrial "family forests" to sustainably maintain the working character of their acreage rather than subdivide it or convert it for development. However, the business costs inherent in even a small-scale commercial timber harvest typically mean that forest parcels smaller than approximately 80 acres are too small to support a financial return. Statistics for private forest ownership in the U.S. suggest this minimum scale makes commercial harvest incentives effectively inaccessible to more than 90% of forest owners. Rural landscape conservation and commercial timber harvests depend on the same economies of scale to be viable. Designs for regional-scale forest conservation need to account for non-industrial but nonetheless commercial economies of scale that set an inherent limit on financial incentives intended to foster stewardship activity among family-forest landowners.
This piece is a brief commentary on a problem that commercial forestry practitioners and landscape conservationists have in common. At present, it is not under consideration at a peer-reviewed journal.