SFI Is Helping Keep Forestlands in the Hands of African American Families

Black Family Land Trust — A Tree, Is A Tree, Is A Tree 101
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. The Black Family Land Trust is using forestry as a key tool to keep land in the hands of African American families.
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.
A Tree, Is A Tree, Is A Tree 101, supported in part by funding from SFI Inc., is the Black Family Land Trust’s three-part training on forest management, intended to introduce Southside Virginia landowners to managed forestry as an asset-protection strategy.
  • Session I is an overview of forestry as a conservation and family economic development tool that highlights successful landowners with forest management plans who share their success stories.
  • Session II introduces the concepts and terms of forest management and forest management planning.
  • Session III is a basic overview of the economies of trees and forestry, and how to turn family forests into performing assets for today, tomorrow and for generations to come.
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.
The Black Family Land Trust’s program aligns tightly with SFI’s support of underserved communities through forestry. Southside Virginia has one of the highest concentrations of forested and farm land held by African Americans in the state. We know from the Black Family Land Trust’s own work that the Southside region is ground zero for focusing on the potential loss of significant acres of forested land held in fragmented family ownership.
How the project builds SFI community engagement
This grant supports SFI’s community engagement efforts in two primary ways. It supports heritage values and it supports underserved communities through forestry programs. Through partnership and support of others operating effectively on these issues, and by using the natural connections of SFI Implementation Committees and our network of Program Participants, SFI can become a vital piece of the solution to the important issue of African-American land retention and sustainable management.
SFI’s community engagement efforts include the work of SFI Implementation Committees, SFI Community Grants Partners and SFI Inc. initiatives. These efforts have helped elevate and enrich the connections between people and forests. Our support for community-building organizations like the Black Family Land Trust enhances the vital links that exist between healthy forests, responsible purchasing and sustainable communities.
This partnership includes community leaders, government and the not-for-profit sector:
  • Project lead: Black Family Land Trust
  • Sustainable Forestry Initiative
  • Virginia Department of Forestry
  • U.S. Endowment for Forestry & Communities
Related information
  • 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.
  • Black Family Land Trust
About Black Family Land Trust
The Black Family Land Trust, Inc. (BFLT), based in North Carolina, is one of the nation’s only conservation land trust dedicated to the preservation and protection of African-American and other historically underserved landowners assets. The BFLT utilizes the core principles of land conservation and land-based community economic development to achieve our goals. We measurably improve the quality of life for landowners, by providing families with the tools necessary to make informed, proactive decisions regarding their land and its use. The BFLT works primarily in the Southeastern United States, our programs are intergenerational in their design. We honor the legacy of those stewards of the land that came before us and have faith in those stewards of the land that will come after us.