Resources Science ›› 2020, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (7): 1361-1371.doi: 10.18402/resci.2020.07.12

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Property rights change and management organization of timberland investment in European and North American countries

ZHANG Nan1,2(), YANG Hongqiang1,2,3()   

  1. 1. College of Economics and Management, Nanjing Forestry University, Nanjing 210037, China
    2. Research Center for Economics and Trade in Forest Products, The State Forestry Administration, Nanjing 210037, China
    3. Center for the Yangtze River Delta’s Socioeconomic Development, Nanjing University, Nanjing 210093, China
  • Received:2019-11-08 Revised:2020-04-11 Online:2020-07-25 Published:2020-09-25
  • Contact: YANG Hongqiang;


Timberland is an important alternative investment class selected by international investors. Timberland ownership structure and its associated management modes are important to timberland investment and portfolio performance. We reviewed the evolvement of timberland property rights and structure in typical European and North American countries and summarized different investors and management styles of timberland under different ownership regimes. We found that: (1) Most timberlands in European countries (for example, Sweden) and the United States are privately owned, whereas most timberlands in Canada are publicly owned. Private property rights were triggered by market speculations and landowners’ appeals while administrative public property rights still have a significant position in Canada and other countries. (2) Corporate models represented by Timberland Investment Management Organizations (TIMOs) and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and industry associations such as Forest Landowners Association are typical management organizational modes of private timberland. The TIMOs and REITs have promoted the worldwide development of timberland investment. Management of public timberland takes forestry bureaus as the main body, and its operation depends on provincial forestry bureaus’ administrative coordination ability to realize the sustainable management of timberland. (3) Timberland in European and North American countries shows a tendency of private fragmentation and institutional concentration. The separation of timberland ownership from its management rights is obvious. Traditional forest products companies have shifted from owning timberland to divesting timberland while public timberland management has shifted from a single administrative perspective to a comprehensive multi-functional management. Furthermore, forest certification pays a close attention to timberland investment needs in addition to traditional ecological capacity assessment. At the end of this article, we provided some suggestions for accelerating the marketization of China’s timberland assets based on timberland investment within China and the changing trend of European and American countries, including improving internal governance structure of timberland property rights, cultivating forestry management subjects of appropriate scales, promoting the marketization process of forest certification, and developing constrained forestry public private partnership investment return mechanism.

Key words: timberland investment, ownership structure, TIMOs, REITs, Forest Landowners Association, forestland divestiture, social capital