Southern Roots in New York

Urban-rural connections are quite important for land and forest management in the South. From the early 1900s to about 1970, many African Americans migrated from southern farms to industrializing northern cities, and since then many have returned to their homelands. As a USDA Forest Service researcher, I’ve studied African American forest landownership since 1999. I…  More 

Identifying Potential Heirs Properties

Heirs’ property is inherited land that comes with a catch – a clouded title. “Without a clear title, families are at risk of losing their land and their wealth,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Cassandra Johnson Gaither. Heirs’ property owners often cannot access credit, sell natural resources, or participate in state and federal land improvement…  More 

Heirs’ Property in the South

Children often inherit their parents’ homes and land. But what happens when there is no will or title? For many people, this is not an abstract question. “Heirs’ property is inherited land that two or more people own,” says U.S. Forest Service scientist Cassandra Johnson Gaither. “The property is typically passed to heirs without a…  More 

Sunshine, Sweat, and Tears

The U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service launched a six-year program in 2012 to test the potential of sustainable forestry practices to help stabilize African-American land ownership, increase forest health, and build economic assets in the southern Black Belt. The Sustainable Forestry…  More 

Protecting Heirs and Stabilizing Communities

What do you do with Grandma’s house or farm when she dies without a will? Without a properly recorded will, the land is distributed to the children of the deceased as “tenants in common.” The process leaves the family without a clear and marketable title to family property and may require total agreement on any…  More 

Promoting Sustainable Forestry on African American Family Lands

New insight on the challenges and opportunities facing African American family forest owners in the Southeast was just published by U.S. Forest Service scientists in Small Scale Forestry.  SRS research forester John Schelhas, SRS research social scientist Cassandra Johnson Gaither, and University of Georgia assistant research scientist Sarah Hitchner summarized interviews with 60 minority landowners in…  More 

Black Belt Forestry

After the Civil War, former African American slaves were deeded or bought property across the South, but in subsequent years often lacked the money for — or were denied access to – the legal resources needed to establish title to the land. As a result, much of this land was passed down through following generations…  More 

Helping African American Rural Landowners Keep Family Forests

After the Civil War, African Americans were deeded or bought property across the South, but at that time they often lacked the money for — or were denied access to — legal resources. As a result, much of this land was passed down through the generations without the benefit of a written will or title and…  More