In addition to being motivated by profit, the management decisions taken by non-industrial private forest (NIPF) owners involve other considerations beyond timber, such as non-timber goods and services, as well as factors that affect the level of timber output from the land. Ensuring and improving forest profitability to make NIPF management viable is one of the main challenges faced by this type of landowner. This study empirically explores and assesses management by NIPF owners, through analysing attributes of forest economics (investment in holdings, expenditure on planting and silviculture, public subsidies, along with timber and non-timber incomes). With the aim of predicting outcomes, a multiple regression model was also constructed to investigate and quantify the relationship between socioeconomic and holding factors, and the planting activities carried out by NIPF owners. For this, 103 resident forest landowners in a forest region in northern Spain were interviewed in person, during March 2004, about their commitment to and involvement in land management during the period 1999–2003. The results mainly revealed that attractive forest returns and favourable market conditions for timber production are significant factors for investment in and development of forestry, with personal and family conditions also being important factors in explaining the type of land management carried out. In particular, the multiple linear regression model for forest planting activity correctly explained 84.5% of the variability observed in the study population, indicating that both the investments in and the incomes from forestry play an important role in the activity, as does the size of the holding. The findings may be of interest in promoting public measures related to timber markets and economic incentives for forest management, which will allow landowners to develop economically viable practices, as well as enabling fulfilment of social and environmental demands for sustainable forestry and rural development.