To avoid conflicts often associated with mandatory regulations, it is crucial to motivate and incentivize forest owners to participate in voluntary conservation programs. To investigate forest owner preferences and willingness to accept compensation (WTA) to participate, we conduct a contingent valuation survey of non-industrial private forest owners in Norway. We find that WTA is negatively related to the size of the forest holding and absentee ownership, and positively related to the share of the forest classified as productive. The overall mean WTA per year per hectare is estimated at NOK 1800. Costs of reaching conservation goals can be saved by targeting small and relatively less productive forests and absentee owners first, before considering increasingly expensive forest areas. However, this recommendation only holds if desirable biological characteristics are not substantially less likely to be found in such areas. Results are potentially important both for our understanding of forest owner preferences and the costs of voluntary forest conservation schemes currently in use in many countries.