Photo of Gregory E. Frey

Gregory E. Frey

Research Forester
P.O. Box 12254
3041 E. Cornwallis Rd.
Research Triangle Park, NC 27709-2254
Phone: 919-549-4025
Fax: 919-549-4086

Current Research

Dr. Frey conducts research with the goal of empowering land users to improve their own lives in a way that also provides benefits to society.

His main current research areas include forest taxation, non-timber forest products, and common property.

Forest taxation

Taxes drive people crazy. Private forest landowners say that taxes that are either too high or poorly designed force them to make decisions that are not the best for the land or for society. Since forests in the US East are about two-thirds privately owned, this has consequences for all of us. Dr. Frey is leading research into how tax policies engage and affect landowners, and how they change the way they manage forests such as when to harvest timber, sell land, or invest in improvements.

Non-timber forest products

People use forests for all kinds of things. Of course, trees are used for lumber, paper, and firewood, and forests provide clean air and water. But there are other important forest products that come from the fruits, roots, bark, stems, and leaves of various forest plants. You may have used some of those products yourself as food, art supplies, or remedies. They are often overlooked in forest management and economic analysis, but many people do rely on them to make ends meet. Dr. Frey is leading a group to synthesize past research and conduct new research into harvesting, markets, and regulations for these products, so we can improve forest management and people’s lives.

Common-pool resources

When a property owner dies without a will, the land becomes common property among heirs. Since decisions have to be unanimous, the land becomes difficult to manage or improve, and often ends up being sold to developers. However, communal ownership occurs in many other countries, and they have strong community institutions that make and implement decisions. Dr. Frey is interested in whether international community-owned forests are successful and profitable, and if so, how. Can we apply those lessons to property owned jointly by children or grandchildren of deceased forest landowners in the US?

Research Interests

Dr. Frey's current role is to explore forest policy, regulation, and taxes, including:

  • Effects of federal, state, and local income and property tax provisions and programs
  • Community-based forest management
  • Policies and programs affecting limited-resource and underserved forest landowners
  • Markets, values, and policies for agroforestry systems & non-timber forest products
  • Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) and climate change policy
  • United States and Latin America


Past Research

Dr. Frey's past research has been related to the economic and social benefits of various forest management systems and policies. He has particularly investigated systems and policies that have potential to benefit small and limited-resource forest users, and those that provide ecosystem services to society. He has lived, worked, and conducted forest economics and policy research in both the US South and Latin America.

One line of Dr. Frey's research has been related to the economic returns, risks, and perceptions of agroforestry systems, when compared to conventional forestry and agricultural systems. He has been involved in research teams related to non-timber forest products, forest farming, silvopasture, and alley cropping.

Dr. Frey has been involved in research on timber investment returns worldwide along with the effects of policies and programs such as loans, subsidies, and payments for services such as carbon sequestration, as well as certification of sustainable forest management. He has also been involved in the policy development process in various Latin American countries to reduce deforestation as a strategy to conserve forest carbon and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

Why This Research is Important

Dr. Frey conducts research with the goal of empowering land users to improve their own lives in a way that also provides benefits to society.

Forest cover, when well-managed and well-located throughout a landscape can provide numerous benefits for individuals, communities, our nation, and the world. Numerous interventions have been attempted by organizations worldwide, to varying degrees of success, to increase overall forest cover and better manage existing forests, in order to maximize benefits to society. In every case, these policies and programs are an attempt to change the behavior of people, particularly local resource users. The success of a policy or program depends on market and non-market values of resource users under the legal framework for tenure of forest resources in a particular country or administrative region.


Ph.D. in Forestry, 2009
NC State University
B.S. in Chemistry, 2000
Wake Forest University

Professional Experience

Research Forester, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station

Economics research on forest policy, regulation, and taxes.

Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Virginia State University / Virginia Cooperative Extension


Extended Term Consultant, World Bank, Latin American and Caribbean Region

Forest Carbon Specialist

Research Assistant, Instructor, and Teaching Assistant, North Carolina State University

Forest economics

Volunteer and Volunteer Coordinator, Peace Corps Paraguay

Environmental Education

Professional Organizations

  • Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals, Affiliate Member (2014 - Current); Member (2012 - 2014); National Treasurer (2013 - 2014) (2012—Current)
  • International Society of Forest Resource Economics, Member (2009—Current)
  • Society of American Foresters (SAF), Member (2009—Current)
  • International Society of Tropical Foresters, Member; Chapter President (2008 - 2009) (2004—Current)
  • Virginia Department of Forestry, Committee Member (2011—2014)
  • Virginia Forestry Association, Member (2011—2014)
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Committee Member (2011—2014)
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, Committee Member (2012—2013)

Awards and Recognition

Top Ten, Forest Innovation Reviews (FIRz), 2020
Selected as one of ten top forestry innovations nationally by the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities for presentation at 2020 Forest Innovation Reviews (FIRz) (presentation was indefinitely postponed due to COVID)
Extension Publications Award, 2017
Gold Award, Southern Region Extension Forestry Awards for Excellence
Forest Service International Programs, 2017
Selected for Early-Career Social Scientist International Research Engagement Pilot Program
Program Excellence Award, 2013
District and State Winner, Virginia Cooperative Extension, New Initiatives Category.
Team Award, 2011
World Bank Latin America and Caribbean Vice Presidential Unit

Featured Publications and Products


Research Highlights

Fire in the Southern Appalachians: Understanding Impacts, Interventions, and Future Fire Events (2020)
SRS-2020-57 Of all the documented fires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, between 1992 to 2017, the Chimney Tops 2 fire accounts for more than half of the total area burned. The Chimney Tops 2 fire was unlike any other in recent decades in the Southern Appalachians. A team of SRS researchers examined wildfire and controlled burns in the Southern Appalachians over this period and explored potential future changes in both. 

Half of States in the Southern U.S. Allow Harvest of Non-timber Forest Products in State Forests; can also Document Illegal Harvesting (2016)
SRS-2016-178 Little is known about of the harvest of non-timber forest products (NTFPs) in state forests of the southern U.S. Forest Service scientists documented the most commonly harvested NTFPs on state forests and found that of the 12 southern states that have state forests, seven allow some harvest of NTFPs and have policies and practices in place to regulate harvest activities. Of those seven, six have evidence of illegal harvesting.

Keys to Landowner Enrollment in State Property Tax Programs: Program Requirements and Forestland Characteristics (2020)
SRS-2020-25 All 50 States offer programs that lower property taxes for enrolled forestlands, but participation in these programs vary. USDA Forest Service research found that program eligibility rules, restrictions on enrolled land, and penalties for withdrawal affect enrollment. Larger land parcels are more likely to be enrolled. Surprisingly, landowner goals and concerns were not usually linked to enrollment in state property tax programs.

State programs to reduce forestland property taxes vary in requirements and implementation. (2018)
SRS-2018-60 All states in the U.S. have programs that lower property taxes for qualified forest land, which is justified by the economic benefits and non-market amenities that forests provide. Researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Southern Research Station dug into the tax laws in all 50 states to understand their requirements for enrollment and methods of implementation. They found wide variation in what states require from landowners in order to enroll land parcels, penalties for withdrawal, and the agencies that implement the programs.

Wild American Ginseng Shows Indications of Economic Overharvest (2019)
SRS-2019-25 Overharvest can occur in open access marine fisheries, leading to lower total economic profits. Could the same occur with medicinal forest products? A team of USDA Forest Service botanists and economists collaborated on a study that suggests American ginseng is subject to a backward bending supply curve.

R&D Affiliations
Research Topics
SRS Science Area
External Resources