Although dogged by depressed timber prices resulting from the housing slump, Southern forestland owners are reaping a rising source of income from the lease of their tree-growing lands for hunting and recreation.

A survey conducted by F&W Forestry Services, Inc., a forest management and consulting firm based in Albany, Georgia, found that hunting leases are bringing up to $15 an acre per year for hunting rights on some privately owned timberlands across its 10-state service area. The lower end of the range is $3 per acre.

“We’ve seen hunting leases become an increasing source of alternative income for our timber grower clients over the years,” said F&W President Marshall Thomas. “Except for pine straw in the slash and longleaf (pine) regions, the leasing of hunting rights is probably the largest source of non-timber sales for landowners throughout our service area.”

F&W’s 14 area managers participated in the survey of hunting and recreational use of forestlands. The results are published in the winter edition of the firm’s newsletter, F&W Forestry Report.

“Hunting leases have become big business,” F&W reports. “There was a time when most landowners felt lucky to get enough hunting income from their lands to pay the property taxes. Nowadays, property taxes are more than likely the starting point for many hunting lease rates.” The range of annual lease rates per acre was from $10 to $15 in southwest Georgia to $2 to $7 in western Tennessee.

The managers reported strong demand and competition for hunting and recreation land, especially those within proximity of urban areas. A diversity of forest types, streams and lakes, a good mix of wildlife species, and openings for food plots are among factors that drive lease rates. Whitetail deer was listed as the favorite game of hunters in all areas in the survey, followed by turkey in all but Arkansas, where waterfowl ranked second.

F&W provides marketing, management, technical, and consulting services to private forestland owners throughout the Southern Pine and Central Hardwood regions of the U.S. and in South America. It is one of the nation’s oldest and largest forestry management and consulting firms, with operations in 10 states and South America. More information on the organization and this survey can be found at www.fwforestry.com.

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