Tangled Title and Timber: A Continuing Education Webinar on Heirs Property in Georgia
Why this project matters
Although African Americans had amassed 15 million acres/6 million hectares of land in the U.S. South between 1865 and 1919, today 97% of those lands have been lost, according to the Land Trust Alliance.
Understanding heirs’ property (aka tangled title) is critical to working with underserved communities. Developed by the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center, Southern Regional Extension Forestry, and SFI Georgia this free and publicly available webinar will explain how foresters can support heirs’ property owners to better manage their timber as an asset.
Heirs property is the untold story behind blight and generational poverty in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Heirs property refers to a home or land that passes from generation to generation without a legally designated owner. This results in ownership being divided among all living descendants in a family. This unstable form of ownership limits a family’s ability to build generational wealth and hampers the efforts of nonprofits and cities to revitalize neighborhoods.
Why is SFI involved?
SFI is committed to identifying ways to support engaging African American forest owners in the U.S. South, including land retention. SFI, as an organization that stands for future forests, believes we can collaborate to help keep forests as forests and ensure that they are responsibly managed to provide conservation values as well as financial benefits to the African Americans who own these forestlands.
Forestry offers many older farmers, landowners not living on their land, and multiple generations of heirs who want to keep their land together, an opportunity to protect their land assets while generating income from their land. Managed forestry can help landowners prosper in retirement and through multiple generations. It can also be a powerful tool to help resolve heirs’ property issues and ownership questions and offers a means to help preserve the important social and cultural heritage of African American land ownership.
How the project builds SFI community engagement
Supporting engagement of underserved landowners connects well with SFI’s community engagement goals, specifically by training and educating current and future forestry practitioners and professionals. The project also supports underserved communities through forestry, with a focus on urban forestry, rural communities and minority landowners. And it demonstrates the conservation values of forests certified to SFI through community-related projects.
Through partnership and support of others operating effectively on these issues, and by using the natural strength of SFI Implementation Committees and our network of SFI Program Participants, SFI can become a vital piece of the solution to this important issue. As such, SFI Inc. will fund this project to further our priority engagement on this important issue. SFI will work with the project leaders at the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center to incorporate content regarding the SFI small lands module into the webinar, as well as determine opportunities to leverage this work with other SFI Implementation Committees across the U.S. South.
This partnership includes legal experts, community activists, forestry professionals and conservationists.
- Project lead: Georgia Heirs Property Law Center
- Sustainable Forestry Initiative
- Southern Regional Extension Forestry
- Georgia SFI Implementation Committee
- SFI is helping the Black Family Land Trust keep forestlands in the hands of African American families — A Tree, Is A Tree, Is A Tree 101.
- The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities received a 2014 SFI Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant to support African American forestland owners.
- The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities supports related work in multiple landscapes, including Southside Virginia.
About the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center
Recognizing the need for prevention, education, and remediation of heirs’ property led to the creation of the Georgia Heirs Property Law Center, Inc. The Center has served Georgia’s heirs’ property owners, nonprofits, and municipalities since 2015. The Center is a not-for-profit law firm dedicated to increasing generational wealth, social justice, and community stability by securing and preserving property rights of low- and moderate‑income Georgians. The Center’s services include title clearing, will creation, estate planning, and connecting clients with programs to increase the value of their land and homes. Staff travel throughout the state from offices in Atlanta, Athens, and Macon.
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