Virginia’s Generation NEXT project, a collaboration between Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Department of Forestry, was recently recognized by the National Woodland Owners Association for its work with family forestland owners.
The project was awarded the National Family Forest Education Award for an Individual Program in 2022 at the Society of American Foresters meeting in Baltimore. The award recognizes a project that exhibits excellence in education programming benefiting family forest owners across the United States.
Generation NEXT is an outreach program designed to help family forestland owners make informed and intentional decisions regarding passing their land forward to the next generation. Generation NEXT workshops provide landowners with the necessary tools and resources as they begin planning for intergeneration land transfers.
The program is led by an interagency team, which comprises district Extension foresters Neil Clark, Adam Downing, Jason Fisher, and Bill Worrell, along with Extension associates Jennifer Gagnon and Karen Snape in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, forest conservation specialists with the Virginia Department of Forestry, and Karl Didier, the agency’s forestland conservation program manager.
“I love the breadth and depth of the Generation NEXT program,” said Snape, the program’s coordinator. “We’ve directly reached more than 460 families with workshops, potentially impacting almost 170,000 acres of Virginia’s rural land, plus more through our video and print resources. We are also empowering their most trusted advisors – forestry and Extension personnel – to broach these difficult topics and direct landowners to the resources they need. We’re honored by this recognition of our success so far and excited about the future of the program.”
Family forestland is most at risk of parceling and fragmentation, and possibly passing out of forest use or even family hands, at the time of intergenerational transfer. Respondents to a 2018 Benefits and Barriers Analysis in Southside, Virginia, overwhelmingly expressed a desire to keep their family woodlands intact, as a forest, and in family ownership, yet 79 percent of them had not developed a succession plan.
As a result, Generation NEXT team members generated a 56-page book, “Legacy Planning: A Guide for Virginia Landowners,” to guide landowners in intergeneration transfer as well as a website, the Generation NEXT YouTube Channel, and more 35 events for hundreds of resource professionals and attorneys.
“We are extremely proud in Virginia of the innovative and effective GenNEXT program,” said Rob Farrell, a state forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry. “We are even more proud of the partnership that it is built upon. The Virginia Department of Forestry, the Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Virginia Cooperative Extension worked collaboratively to identify the critical needs of our private landowners, created a program to address those needs and then brought together like-minded professionals to deliver it. This is everything that service to landowners should aspire to be.”