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Stakeholders' Perceptions of Parcelization in Wisconsin's Northwoods

  • USDA Forest Service

Abstract and Figures

Parcelization, the process by which relatively large forest ownerships become subdivided into smaller ones, is often related to changes in ownership and can bring changes to the use of the land. Landowners, resource professionals, and others interested in Wisconsin's Northwoods were asked their views on parcelization in a series of stakeholder forums. We analyzed their statements through the lens of forest sustainability with its ecological, economic, and social dimensions. The analysis shows how sustainability might be used to structure future research and discourse within local communities to foster fuller considerations of landscape and land use change.
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When Prohibition-era mob-
ster Al “Scarface” Capone
wanted to escape the tribu-
lations of life in Chicago, he headed for
“The Hideout,” his 400-acre lake and
forest retreat in the Northwoods of
Wisconsin. Since then, many other ur-
banites from the upper Midwest have
similarly sought their getaway in the
Northwoods, like Capone looking for
18 Journal of Forestry September 2003
Mark G. Rickenbach and Paul H. Gobster
Parcelization,the process by which relatively large forest ownerships become subdivided into
smaller ones, is often related to changes in ownership and can bring changes to the use of the
land. Landowners, resource professionals, and others interested in Wisconsin’s Northwoods
were asked their views on parcelization in a series of stakeholder forums. We analyzed their
statements through the lens of forest sustainability with its ecological, economic, and social
dimensions. The analysis shows how sustainability might be used to structure future research
and discourse within local communities to foster fuller considerations of landscape and land
use change.
Keywords: land use; nonindustrial private forestland; public perceptions; sustainability
Stakeholders’ Perceptions
of Parcelization in Wisconsin’s Northwoods
Stakeholders’ Perceptions
of Parcelization in Wisconsin’s Northwoods
Above: Housing developments are a possible,
but not inevitable, result of parcelization.
Courtesy of USDA Forest Service
September 2003 Journal of Forestry
solace amid the region’s ex-
pansive forests, scenic lakes,
and abundant fish and
wildlife. This recreational
haven also yields forest prod-
ucts that support thriving
lumber and paper industries.
Although recreation and for-
est products have sustained
many Northwoods’ commu-
nities (Marcouiller and Mace
1999), recent shifts in land
ownership and use are alter-
ing the relationship between
people and communities and
their forests.
The Northwoods is a loosely de-
fined region of northern Minnesota,
Wisconsin, and Michigan. In Wiscon-
sin, the focus of our work, it com-
monly refers to the northernmost 22
counties. Of the 14 million acres, 71.8
percent is forested, and nonindustrial
private forests (NIPF) dominate the
landscape (43.8 percent) (Schmidt
1998). Forest industry and corpora-
tions account for 14.6 percent, and
tribal entities own 3.5 percent.
Through federal, state, and county
ownerships, the public manages the re-
maining forests (38.1 percent).
Although the distribution among
these ownership classes has changed
very little since the 1980s, the number
of NIPF owners in Wisconsins North-
woods grew from 95,600 in 1985 to
107,600 in 1997 (Roberts et al. 1986;
Leatherberry 2001). From 1990 to
2000 the population of the North-
woods grew by 10.6 percent, just above
the statewide average of 9.6 percent,
and seven Northwoods counties grew
by more than 15 percent (US Bureau
of the Census 2002). Following this
population growth, housing density
has also increased (Radeloff et al.
With many newcomers wanting
their own piece of the Northwoods pie,
relatively large ownerships are being
subdivided into smaller ones. This
parcelization has been happening in
the state for many decades, but there is
a growing concern that its current pace
and characteristics are changing the
Northwoods. In recent years some in-
dustrial landholders have split rela-
tively large forest blocks into parcels as
small as 40 acres. More frequently seen
is the subdivision of 40- or 80-acre
NIPF parcels into recreational wood-
lots of 5 and 10 acres or smaller (Klase
and Guries 1999). With a frenzy of real
estate transactions in the past 10 years,
few attractive parcels have escaped
scrutiny. Even Capone’s Hideout, long
since converted to a local tourist attrac-
tion, hit the chopping block for sale as
four parcels (Anon. 2000). Local citi-
zens, public land managers, and indi-
viduals and groups who depend on the
sustainability of the region’s forest re-
sources are now asking how parceliza-
tion and forestland conversion will af-
fect them.
Simply redrawing the boundary
lines on a map does not affect the vi-
sual or functional characteristics of the
forest. Attendant changes in owner-
ship, use, and cover, however, can have
myriad consequences—some positive,
some negative. Parcelization and its as-
sociated activities have been linked to
ecological impacts on wildlife
(Theobold et al. 1997), water quality
(Wear et al. 1998), and land cover
(Turner et al. 1996; Johnson 2001).
Local economies can change (Harper
et al. 1990), and regional wood supply
can decrease (Wear et al. 1999). The
social dynamic can also change. New
people bring new values and ideas, and
the increase in density increases the po-
tential for conflict (Egan and Luloff
2000; Smith and Krannich 2000).
This article describes the discourse
that emerged from an ex-
ploratory study of the effects
of parcelization on Wiscon-
sin’s Northwoods as per-
ceived by concerned stake-
holders. The three pillars”
of forest sustainability—eco-
logical, economic, and social
(Salwasser et al. 1993)—
serve as the lens for focusing
the stakeholders’ perspec-
tives. After presenting our
findings, we discuss how re-
searchers, resource profes-
sionals, and policymakers
who seek to study or foster
discussion about parcelization might
more effectively structure their efforts.
Interest in parcelization and frag-
mentation issues among Northwoods
stakeholders compelled the nonprofit
group 1,000 Friends of Wisconsin
(“1000 Friends”) and its research and
education arm, the Land Use Institute,
to establish a Forest Fragmentation Ed-
ucation Initiative in late 2000. The
goal of the initiative was
to connect land management agen-
cies, woodland organizations, and
local units of government with forest
landowners to encourage a discussion
about trends in woodland ownership
and use and their implications for the
long-term environmental and eco-
nomic well-being of forestlands in the
state. (Last and Gobster 2001)
Partners in the initiative included gov-
ernment, academic, forest industry,
landowner, and nonprofit interests.
Working with these partners, the
coauthors guided the stakeholder input
process. We felt it was critical to un-
derstand how various interests perceive
and experience parcelization. We iden-
tified a set of discussion questions for
tapping stakeholders’ perceptions of
parcelization and fragmentation based
on a process model for understanding
landscape change. This model concep-
tualizes the process of landscape
change as one in which observable pat-
terns of change result from one or
more driving forces of social, eco-
Stakeholders at the Wisconsin Rapids forum share their thoughts.
Don Last
nomic, or technological origin (Gob-
ster et al. 2000). These changes may
have effects on people and ecosystems,
sometimes for the better and some-
times for the worse. Applying the
model to the issues of parcelization re-
sulted in the following set of questions:
• Patterns: What patterns and sizes
of parcelization and fragmentation
have you seen? Where are they occur-
ring? To what extent is parcelization re-
sulting in fragmentation or land devel-
• Drivers: How or in relation to
what are parcelization and fragmenta-
tion occurring? What are the causes?
• Effects: Do you see any problems
resulting from parcelization and frag-
mentation? Impacts on community?
Any benefits? Impacts on ecosystem?
Impacts to you personally?
Response strategies: What do you
see as the most effective solutions to
fragmentation issues? What more can
or should be done? By whom?
Four regional forums were held in
northern and central Wisconsin, and a
statewide forum took place in Wausau,
an urban gateway to the Northwoods
(fig. 1). Attendance was promoted
through the general media and open to
the public; 182 stakeholders partici-
pated. Because registration was re-
quired, we were able to ascertain the
interests that participants represented
(table 1).
Transcripts from the sessions were
studied using thematic analysis (Boy-
atzis 1998). First we coded the text
statements to identify common ideas
present in the data, and we then coded
the data for opinions, statements, and
descriptions as they related to the eco-
logical, economic, and social dimen-
sions of sustainability. Within these
three coded dimensions, we sought to
identify commonalities and differences
among the participants to more thor-
oughly understand their understanding
of the effects of parcelization.
The ecological, economic, and so-
cial dimensions of sustainability ac-
counted for different volumes of com-
ments. Roughly half the coded com-
ments related to the social dimension.
The economic dimension accounted
for approximately a third, and the re-
maining sixth fell into the ecological.
This measure does not necessarily cor-
respond to participants’ ranking of the
issues, but what they talked about sug-
gests the tenor and focus of conversa-
tion. Nearly all discussions concerned
northern Wisconsin. Generally, the
participants’ views and background
were sympathetic to land conservation
and management. For example, indi-
viduals in favor of additional housing
and industrial development in North-
ern Wisconsin were either not present
or chose not to make their opinions
In the discussion below, the quota-
tions are actual comments that were
representative of participants’ state-
ments about that theme.
Social themes. Our analysis yielded
three themes within the social dimen-
sion. The strongest of these themes was
the influx of new people and new uses
of the land brought on by parceliza-
tion. Participants offered a range of
perspectives on how people and land
uses are changing and distinguished
long-term residents from relative (or
potential) newcomers: “Personally, I
think we should build a fence around
[the Northwoods] here along Highway
29 and tell everybody else to go to
New people have brought new ideas
about the whole spectrum of forest use:
“…increased user conflicts, more re-
lated to quiet sports versus motorized
sports.” “Just in our wooded subdivi-
sion, where everybody wants mani-
cured bluegrass and we’re the lone
prairie enthusiasts.”
To be sure, participants evidenced
an element of protectionism, about
both the place they live and more fun-
damental ideas: “… the private prop-
erty right is one of our most cherished
constitutionally protected rights and,
therefore, most difficult to overcome.
And I don’t knowthat you even
want to overcome it.”
One new facet of the changing so-
cial fabric—the second theme of social
sustainability—was the way in which
these property rights are exercised. Par-
ticipants agreed that access to both
public and private land was changing.
In their opinion, parcelization has led
to the posting of more private land. In
some cases, hunters have been excluded
from land they hunted for years:
“That’s what really sets me off. I can’t
hunt now where I used to hunt.”
In other cases, trail easements were
nullified: “… when land gets subdi-
vided, the traditional snowmobile trail
access across private land evapo-
According to participants, the clos-
ing of private lands to some traditional
uses and the influx of people seeking
new and different recreational oppor-
tunities have increased the pressure on
public land: “It seems to have become
20 Journal of Forestry September 2003
Figure 1. Northern Wisconsin
counties that constitute the
Northwoods appear in blue.
The four local meetings were
held in the towns of Ashland,
Eagle River, Spooner, and
Wisconsin Rapids, and the
statewide meeting was held
in Wausau.
Zoe Rickenbach and Ted Sickley
September 2003 Journal of Forestry 21
an issue for the public lands, and our
citizens are demanding different
uses than they have had traditionally in
the past.”
Participants viewed this reduced
quantity and quality of access as a very
negative outcome of parcelization.
The third theme of the social di-
mension was a focus on the policies
and institutional changes needed to
sustain communities grappling with
the effects of parcelization. Local gov-
ernment was described as central to
achieving operable solutions, but land
use planning and zoning are highly
contentious: “Some towns are just
starting to do [land use planning] now.
But even having the plan, it’s just a
plan. And it is very difficult to try to
implement that.”
Although it does not mandate plan-
ning by counties and townships, the
state requires that future decisions af-
fecting land use (e.g., zoning changes)
be guided by a land-use plan. However,
local officials who act either to main-
tain the status quo or advance new
ideas risk retribution: [after passing a
land use plan,] “… the whole town
board was voted out and a new town
board was voted in This basically
split the whole township apart.”
Despite tacit support for land use
planning and even zoning by some of
the participants, there was no consen-
sus that local government could or
would act on a widespread basis. There
was a sense, however, that local govern-
ment faced huge challenges in address-
ing land use questions and that addi-
tional capacity was needed.
Economic Themes
Participants discussed three eco-
nomic sustainability themes related to
parcelization. Taxation was a topic of
considerable discussion: “…forest frag-
mentation is a problem here… And it’s
really the tax issue that’s hurting, forc-
ing [landowners] into [subdividing], to
dealing with that; be it the property
tax, the estate tax …”
Several participants had witnessed or
experienced rising land values at places
throughout the Northwoods: “And yet
the normal person cannot afford to go
buy an 80 or a 40, so what they’re doing
is, they’re buying a 5 or a 10.”
Despite concerns over rising prop-
erty taxes and unaffordable land, many
participants saw the link between taxes
and local services: “One of the benefits
of parcelization has been an increased
tax base, the ability of the county and
some town governments to provide ser-
vices that were not possible a decade
Yet not everyone was convinced that
the additional revenue actually covered
the costs: “… the long-term services
would actually cost [the county] more
than the taxes would bring in.”
Overall, there was a desire for lower
property taxes but no consensus on vi-
able alternatives for either shifting the
tax burden or reducing services.
Another economic theme was the
potential impacts of parcelization on
the sustainability of forest industries
and fiber supply. Many participants
were aware of big changes in ownership
of the state’s industrial forestlands; by
some estimates nearly 90 percent had
changed ownership in the past decade
(Dresang 2002). This shift to new cor-
porate owners was unsettling: “So we’re
having this tremendous turnover of
landownership among corporations,
and corporate profits have come into
play. Can we make more money selling
the land [than managing it for tim-
Even with the continuation of large
industrial ownerships, participants
questioned continued supply from
public lands and NIPFs: “Everyone
knows that it’s getting harder and
harder to get timber supplied from the
Forest Service.”
In particular, parcelization of NIPFs
led some to speculate both on the will-
ingness of new owners to harvest and
on how small a parcel can get before it
becomes inoperable.
The final economic theme explored
the role of economic development and
growth. Participants linked parceliza-
tion with more people and greater
growth; however, there was no consen-
sus on its desirability: “… the more
people that show up, the more money
I make. But obviously, I would like to
see the Northwoods remain the same.”
Some felt that in the long run,
parcelization might eventually limit
tourism—a major economic sector in
the Northwoods: “…[parcelization]
can eventually affect some of the
tourism dollars.”
Others believed that parcelization
and growth could be beneficial to the
community: “I’m of the belief that the
year-round resident or even the six-
month snowbird resident that has a
good retirement income contributes
more economically to the community
than you get from the weekenders.”
Again, the participants were unsure
what might constitute a sustainable
economic solution to the concerns sur-
rounding parcelization and develop-
Ecological Themes
Within the ecological dimension,
two principal themes emerged. Partici-
Table 1. Affiliation of individuals attending the workshops.
Organization or interest Participants*
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry 27
NIPF owners 22
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, other divisions 16
Conservation and environmental organizations 16
USDA Forest Service 14
University or extension 14
Forest industry 13
Local government 12
County conservation districts 8
County forests 8
Tribal government 4
Interested citizens 4
Forestry consultants 3
State legislature 3
*Organizations or interests with fewer than three attendees are not listed.
Journal of Forestry September 200322
pants expressed concerns over the ef-
fects of parcelization on wildlife habi-
tat and biodiversity. Some comments
were specific: “…it becomes harder
and harder, I think, to manage deer
and some other species as these large
tracts of land are subdivided into
smaller pieces.”
Others were more general: “You
start to fragment along roads and all
the attendant issues come up …impact
on wildlife, biodiversity, and so forth.”
Remarks encompassed game species
as well as endangered and reintroduced
species in the face of a changing land-
scape with more people, roads, and
land uses: “… roads do things to
Participants saw parcelization as
having a primarily negative effect on
wildlife and biodiversity.
The other ecological theme that
participants identified was sustaining
the quality and quantity of the region’s
surface water resources. Some felt that
recent changes in state regulation
would allow development of home
sites in wetlands previously not accessi-
ble: “There’s a fear about forested wet-
lands being developed.”
In addition, many participants were
concerned about the water quality on
lakes: “And as you tend to fragment the
forests, you dont have as many forests.
You have a bigger hit on the lakes and
the water quality.”
Participants believed that increased
parcelization would have mainly nega-
tive consequences for water resources.
Discussion and Implications
The views expressed during the se-
ries of forums are not representative of
all who live, work, or recreate in the
Northwoods. However, the study does
provide information about the views of
stakeholders—from forest industry
and environmentalists to private own-
ers and public resource professionals—
who are concerned about forest
parcelization in the Northwoods. Our
findings shed light on two things. First,
we identified how workshop partici-
pants understand parcelization. Sec-
ond, our analysis suggests future ap-
proaches to research and outreach ef-
forts regarding parcelization.
The three dimensions of sustain-
ability proved useful in framing the
analysis. Participants addressed all
three dimensions but tended to stress
the social impacts. Ecological impacts
seemed much less important, but as
one peer reviewer suggested, they may
be confounded or confused by the
other dimensions. This is in one way
surprising, because the participants (see
table 1) might be assumed to be “eco-
logically literate.” However, the ecolog-
ical effects of parcelization can raise po-
litically sensitive issues, such as the
amount of early versus late successional
forests, and the diverse group of stake-
holders may have judiciously avoided
the topic.
Future efforts to engage stakehold-
ers will require more balance across the
three dimensions of sustainability as
well as linkages between them. The
ecological implications (positive and
negative) were rarely fleshed out to an
extent that they were clear to all indi-
viduals involved in the discussion. In
the case of the social and economic di-
mensions, society has identified, if not
desired outcomes, at least general di-
rections. For example, growth and jobs
are seen as desirable, as are opportuni-
ties to recreate and own land. Specific
questions of how much growth or who
should own the land may be more con-
tentious. On the ecological dimension,
there is likely less agreement: Biodiver-
sity may be a desirable outcome, but by
what measure and over what scale and
time horizon still elude consensus.
Participants displayed little knowl-
edge of how perceived economic im-
pacts translated into actual dollars.
Moreover, many of their assertions de-
serve a closer look to see the extent to
which their generalizations are war-
ranted. As members of a market econ-
omy, we are all intuitive economists:
We often make judgments of costs and
benefits without fully considering all
the data. Are such intuitive models suf-
ficient for complex issues like forest
Future research and outreach will
require a more concerted attempt to
understand the full range of conditions
and viewpoints relating to parceliza-
tion. Some people benefit from
parcelization, but their voices were
largely absent from this series of fo-
rums. Until these and other voices are
incorporated into a more coherent pro-
gram of study and discourse about the
Northwoods, it will be difficult to fully
understand and make decisions regard-
ing parcelization as an ecological, eco-
nomic, and social reality. Hence, the
focus on parcelization must expand to
a broader range of conditions and in-
terests. Society must engage the funda-
mental tension of parcelization that
pits individual freedoms (property
rights, harvest decisions) that have
measurable impacts against societal val-
ues (species preservation, economic de-
velopment) that have, in many cases,
more ambiguous benefits and costs.
Although the landscape of the
Northwoods has changed significantly
since the days of Al Capone, this region
and other forest regions across the
country are increasingly havens for
many people. But as more and more
people look to the forests for their
“hideouts,” it will be increasingly im-
portant to seek ways to protect the full
range of values that forests provide to
residents and visitors. In grappling with
the future role of forests and their use, a
sincere and continued discourse on for-
est sustainability can help to alleviate
social, economic, and ecological conse-
quences associated with parcelization.
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Mark G. Rickenbach (mgrickenbach@ is assistant professor, Depart-
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nois. Funding: Wisconsin Environmental
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North Central Research Station.
September 2003 Journal of Forestry
... Parcelization, or the division and sale of land to a greater number of owners, is often a precursor to overall forest loss and fragmentation (Haines, Kennedy, & McFarlane, 2011). These changes have a number of effects on wildlife habitat and biodiversity, the sustainability of forest industries, and exclusion of recreationists from private land (Rickenbach & Gobster, 2003). In many areas, the factors associated with decreasing property sizes and ongoing parcelization are also those associated with decreasing timber harvesting and development, including adjacency to roads and bodies of water (King & Butler, 2005). ...
... In addition to their history of supporting timber and paper-production, these forestlands have traditionally been used for hunting, camping, and trail-based recreational activities in a region where the economy is increasingly driven by tourism and recreation (Bawden, 1997;Flader, 1983). Parcelization is a significant factor in landscape change in northern Wisconsin (Haines et al., 2011) and the ongoing parcelization of private forestland has closed land access and increased recreational pressure on remaining lands (Rickenbach & Gobster, 2003). As a result, the state has made significant efforts to maintain production from corporate and other privately-owned forest lands through preferential taxation programs for many years, and more recently through the purchase of development rights through conservation easements. ...
... After properties were withdrawn from the program by a private owner, over a fifth were parcelized into multiple smaller properties within the fifteen year study period, an indicator that the land had been removed from use as forestland managed for timber relatively quickly. Most of these properties had been open to non-motorized public recreation under the MFL/FCL program, and withdrawal is expected to precede land posting and closure (Rickenbach & Gobster, 2003). Previous studies have shown that these parcelized areas are unlikely to return to managed forest use (Gustafson & Loehle, 2006). ...
Ownership of private forestland is changing rapidly, especially in areas owned by industrial forest product companies. Following divestment by industrial owners, forested lands are increasingly likely to move from intensive timber production to subdivision of the land, development and other private uses, or alternatively to conservation under public tenure. This research follows a unique dataset of forestland properties previously owned by industrial and corporate owners in Wisconsin from 1999 to 2014. A multinomial logistic regression showed that divested lands were more likely to be publicly purchased outright if they were adjacent to water, adjacent to public land, not adjacent to roads, and had higher housing value, while in contrast the predictors of conservation easement acquisition were location in large blocks outside of zoned townships. Properties were more likely to be parcelized if they were adjacent to a paved road, adjacent to water, smaller, in a zoned township, and had fewer years remaining in their tax program enrollment. In an era of rapid industrial land divestment, these findings indicate an important role played by public policies, including preferential tax programs and funds for land and conservation easement acquisition, in shaping whether private forestland is parcelized, conserved under private ownership, or publicly acquired.
... Data from the National Woodland Owner Survey indicates that in 2006, owners of nearly 6 million acres of family forest land in the United States planned to subdivide some or all of their forest land in the next five years (Butler, 2008). Parcelization has been shown to be associated with the loss of wildlife habitat, timber availability, diminished water quality, and greater restrictions on recreational access (Mehmood and Zhang, 2001;Rickenbach and Gobster, 2003;Gobster and Rickenbach, 2004;LaPierre and Germain, 2005;King and Butler, 2005). It has also been described as a potential forerunner to forest fragmentation and development (Mundell et al., 2010). ...
... To our knowledge, only a few studies have examined the perspectives and knowledge of natural resource professionals regarding drivers and outcomes of forest parcelization. Gobster and Rickenbach (2004) and Rickenbach and Gobster (2003) identified perceived patterns, drivers, and outcomes of forest parcelization in northern Wisconsin among public land managers, conservation and environmental organizations, and resource-oriented stakeholders. They found that parcelization is creating new ownership patterns across the landscape, most of which are viewed as negatively impacting recreation opportunities, forest health, timber-based economies, and local communities. ...
... This is in line with what we expected, even though empirical work on this topic is very limited. The only other work to address this issue (Rickenbach and Gobster, 2003) also concluded that parcelization has increased pressure on public land, primarily as it relates to access for public recreation. While parcelization may be thought of as a uniquely private forest land issue and beyond the purview of public land managers, the implications appear to be far-reaching and requiring the attention of public land management agencies. ...
Field-based public natural resource managers in the Lake States (MI, MN, WI) were surveyed for their perspectives on various aspects of private forest land parcelization. This includes their perceptions of recent changes in parcelization activity, drivers and impacts, mitigation strategies, and ability to influence parcelization. Their perspectives on the implications private forest land parcelization has on public land management were also sought. Across the Lake States, most public natural resource managers have witnessed an increasing frequency of forest land parcelization. They consider development potential and proximity to population centers to be the most influential driver of parcelization, with decreased timber supply and loss of recreational access on private land the most likely outcomes. The study documented important perceived linkages between private forest land parcelization and public land management, such as increased conflicts on public land, decreased access to public land, and increased demand for and cost of managing public land.
... Conservationists and policymakers are concerned that forestland divestment will negatively affect a number of forest qualities, including timber supply, recreational access, and healthy ecosystems. Public access to former industrial forestland may be greatly altered, either by hastened parcelization (Rickenbach and Gobster 2003) or through closure by investment owners that consider access rights to be profitable assets (Gunnoe and Gellert 2011). While the primary purpose of land ownership by VIFPCs was to supply their mills, these lands were historically accessible to the public (Hickman 2007). ...
... More than two-thirds of the forests in Wisconsin are privately owned (Best and Wayburn 2001), and ownership by VIFPCs has made up about 10% of this area since the 1940s (Stearns 1997). The parcelization of private forestlands is perceived as a threat to the economies of scale necessary for timber harvesting and recreational activities (Rickenbach and Gobster 2003). Increasing demand for forestland was reflected in rising per-acre costs in forestland sales from the late 1990s until 2007 (National Agricultural Statistics Service [NASS] 2015), but following the national recession that began in late 2007, the total number, acreage, and prices of forestland sales dropped significantly. ...
Forestland divestment by vertically integrated forest products companies (VIFPCs) has spurred significant forest ownership change. To illuminate these dynamics, we examined land sales after VIFPC divestment, subsequent acquisitions of conserved land, and trends in recreational access in Wisconsin. We documented changes from 1999 to 2015 with analysis of tax program records and profiles of the state’s largest investor owners, Plum Creek and The Forestland Group. Nearly all VIFPC land was sold to investors, public agencies, or smaller corporate and private owners. State tax and land acquisition programs buffered these changes: 70% of large private ownership land was retained in the forest tax program and another 16% was acquired by public and nonprofit owners. More than one-quarter of divested forestland was placed in conservation easements. Nonetheless, large private forestland open to public recreation declined by almost one-third. Investor strategies and conservation programs shaped the provision of forest benefits during ownership transitions.
... Although we cannot determine this definitively, parcelization that has occurred in Wisconsin over the years (Rickenbach andGobster 2003, Conrad 2014, Virginia Tech Center for Natural Resources Assessment and Decision Support 2016) may have discouraged foresters from commission-based compensation. The average sale sizes reported in 2009, 2014, and predicted in 2019 by foresters in this study were 46, 42, and 38 acres, respectively, although these differences were not statistically significant (P ϭ 0.17). ...
Seasonal timber harvesting restrictions (STHRs) are applied for a variety of reasons, such as reducing risk of oak wilt and soil disturbance and protecting public resources such as water quality, rare species, and public roads during spring thaw. These restrictions may reduce timber supply during spring and summer. We conducted a survey of 184 private sector foresters and 197 public agency foresters in Wisconsin to estimate the frequency of, rationale for, and cost-effectiveness of STHRs. The response rate was 65%. Survey respondents reported that timber sales were most commonly restricted to comply with best management practices (64% of sales), reduce soil disturbance (56%), prevent oak wilt (39%), and address access concerns (34%). The most common motivations for STHRs were professional judgment of foresters and landowner objectives. Foresters reported that most restrictions were effective in achieving their goals and that landowners supported the restrictions. However, respondents perceived that STHRs reduced stumpage prices by 5 to 12%. We estimated that STHRs cost landowners $22.2 million annually statewide ($3.15 ton⁻¹) of restricted timber based on perceived reductions in stumpage prices. Public agency foresters perceived that most categories of restrictions were cost-effective, whereas forest industry foresters believed a smaller subset of restrictions were cost-effective.
... Most of the extant work on understanding private forestland parcelization focused on such contextual factors (Stone and Tyrrell 2012), served to illustrate the impact of parcelization on landscapes and people, or explained broad patterns of land use and ownership change. For example, studies have focused on parcelization impacts to watersheds (Caron et al. 2012), effects of parcelization on forest sustainability (Gustafson and Loehle 2006), human perceptions of parcelization (Rickenbach and Gobster 2003), reasons for increased parcelization (Zhang, Zhang, and Schelhas 2005), and land-use change via parcelization (Haines, Kennedy, and McFarlane 2011). ...
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Decision-making processes that private forest landowners (PFLs) engage when planning for their forestland’s future are not well understood. The forest ecosystem and the people who depend on its services face several critical challenges, including how to sustainably manage an increasingly parcelized forest. The Theory of Planned Behavior has been used to illuminate connections among constructs informing PFL behavior, but fails to adequately capture the complexities of forest owners’ lived experiences and how those inform behaviors. In-depth interviews provide a deeper understanding of how Pennsylvania PFLs make decisions concerning ownership succession. We approached those who recently subdivided, sold/donated conservation easements, or had not committed to any plan and asked them to tell us about their planning experiences. Relationships among family members and the quality of their communication about the land and succession emerged as important factors in the planning process. Implications for theory, forest planning, education and outreach, and further study are advanced.
... Specifically, the relationship between ownership patterns and forest resource outputs is not well understood, and likely depends on the forest-based good or service in question as well as the actions and management behaviors of the landowners. Forest land parcelization has been linked to the loss of wildlife habitat (e.g., forest land subdivision has been found to be a forerunner to forest habitat fragmentation, land development, and road building), reduced timber availability (e.g., smaller parcel size has been found to be less economical to harvest and associated with a decreased landowner interest in management and investment), and greater restrictions on recreational access (e.g., smaller tracts of forest land have been found to have a greater likelihood of being posted against public access) (Dennis, 1993;Theobald, Miller, & Hobbs, 1997;Mehmood & Zhang, 2001;Rickenbach & Gobster, 2003;Brooks, 2003;Gobster & Rickenbach, 2004;LaPierre & Germain, 2005;King & Butler, 2005;Richenbach & Steele, 2006;Mundell, Taff, Kilgore, & Snyder, 2010). In sum, the parcelization literature makes linkages between smaller parcel size and diminished ecosystem function or output. ...
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A major challenge associated with forest land parcelization, defined as the subdivision of forest land holdings into smaller ownership parcels, is that little information exists on how to measure its severity and judge its impacts across forest landscapes. To address this information gap, an on-line survey presented field-based public natural resource managers in the Lake States of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan with four private forest ownership patterns, each containing the same total forest area, number of parcels, and average parcel size. Survey respondents ranked each landscape from most to least parcelized based on the degree to which each ownership pattern was perceived to adversely impact three forest-based goods and services: timber production, recreational access, and wildlife habitat. Using an exploded logit model, respondents’ rankings of parcelization impact were found to be consistent, regardless of the forest good or service evaluated. Rankings were also not influenced by the respondent’s professional discipline, location, length of professional experience, or employer. Of the four parcelization metrics evaluated, the Gini Coefficient and Adjusted Mean metrics appear to best capture the forest land ownership patterns that natural resource professionals are most concerned about, suggesting those metrics may be useful indicators by which to assess parcelization impact.
... There are many parcelization articles from the turn of the century that introduce the current version of the parcelization problem [2, 61,67,[120][121][122][123][124][125]. The relationship of parcelization to population increases at the urban fringe or urban/rural interface are many, along with future implications [65,[126][127][128][129][130] and how parcelized forest landscapes are characterized. ...
... From an economic perspective, the development of the landscape creates new challenges for traditional resource-based industries such as farming and forestry (Mather 2001 ). New residents may disapprove of land management practices, and the fragmentation of the landscape can impede attempts to capitalize on economies of scale (Rickenbach and Gobster 2003). Biologists and others have pointed to a different set of concerns wherein the longterm consequences of development and change portend significant and irreversible changes to the ecosystems embedded in amenities that attract humans (Odell, Theobald, and Knight 2003). ...
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The process of rural parcelization provides an ongoing challenge for planners targeting both habitat and farmland preservation. An understanding of which landscape features influence parcelization can help planners create more nuanced land division and zoning ordinances. We used GIS to reconstruct a historical parcel database for three towns in Wisconsin and then developed a logistic regression model to determine the extent to which parcel characteristics influence parcel subdivision. Influential predictors included proximity to roads, water, and agricultural areas as well as parcel size.
Wisconsin's logging sector, like many across North America, is changing. Although manual, chainsaw-based systems are still widely used, fully mechanized harvest systems are becoming more prevalent. In 2003, we surveyed 173 Wisconsin logging contractors, inquiring about their annual production, sources of supply, and distribution of timber ownership within their wood basket. Respondents were also asked to evaluate the impacts of forest ownership parcelization on their business. Seventy-six respondents (44%) indicated they had adopted a mechanized harvesting system whereas 97 (56%) used chainsaws and skidders or forwarders. Mechanized and non-mechanized logging firms were significantly different from each other (α = 0.05). Mechanized firms reported average annual production over three times that of non-mechanized firms. Mechanized firms indicated higher proportions of their stumpage came from county and state forests, while non-mechanized firms reported a higher portion from non-industrial private forests (NIPFs). Relatedly, mechanized firms were more likely to have a higher portion of county and municipal timberland in their wood basket. Respondents from mechanized firms were also more likely to see parcelization as a potential problem. Based on these findings, we hypothesize that division "by source" or "by timber sale size" is occurring, with mechanized firms tending toward larger, public sales, while non-mechanized firms tend toward those NIPF stumpage. In light of changing timberland ownership patterns, two implications are discussed. First, continued timberland parcelization may provide an important niche for non-mechanized firms. Second, given differences between mechanized and non-mechanized firms, changes in forest and land use policy may differentially affect logging firms.
The average forest landowner in Wisconsin owns fewer than 30 acres, and in 2014, landowners with as few as 10 acres of forestland were eligible to enroll in a tax program that required periodic timber harvests. These factors point to a need for loggers capable of profitably harvesting small parcels of timber. A series of in-person interviews were conducted with representatives of 15 Wisconsin logging firms previously identified as successful at harvesting small parcels of timber. Ninety-two percent of mechanized loggers had harvested parcels of 10 acres and smaller within the past year. Eighty-five percent of mechanized loggers were willing to harvest parcels as small as 5 acres assuming that only a short move (<5 mi) was required between timber sales. The average direct moving cost for mechanized loggers was $406 per move, versus an estimated $778 when the costs of idle employees and equipment are included. Seventy-seven percent of the participants in this study purchased at least half of the timber that they harvested, and 85 percent performed services other than timber harvesting, such as establishing food plots, as a procurement tool. This study demonstrates that properly equipped Wisconsin loggers are profitably harvesting small parcels of timber; however, loggers and other timber buyers must recognize the additional costs associated with these harvests and adjust stumpage rates to compensate for these costs.
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Development pressures in rural mountainous areas of the United States hold crucial implications for water quality. Especially important arc changes in the extent and pattern of various land uses. We examine how position along an urban-rural gradient affects landscape patterns in a southern Appalachian watershed, first by testing for the effect of distance from an urban center on land-cover change probabilities and then simulating the implied development of a landscape at regular distance intervals. By simulating a common hypothetical landscape we control for variable landscape conditions and define how land development might proceed in the future. Results indicate that position along the urban- rural gradient has a significant effect on land-cover changes on private lands but not on public lands. Furthermore, position along the gradient has a compounding effect on Jand- cover changes through interactions with other variables such as slope. Simulation results indicate that these differences in land-cover changes would give rise to unique "landscape signatures" along the urban-rural gradient. By examining a development sequence, we identify patterns of change that may be most significant for water quality. Two locations along the urban-rural gradient may hold disproportionate influence over water quality in the future: (1) at the most remote portion of the landscape and (2) at the outer envelope of urban expansion. These findings demonstrate how landscape simulation approaches can be used to identify where and how land use decisions may have critical influence over environmental quality, thereby focusing both future research and monitoring efforts and watershed protection measures.
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Exurbanization, or the migration of urban residents to rural environments, has increased greatly over the past two decades, often motivated by perceptions of an improved quality of life in rural locations. The effects of sudden population changes on forestry can be significant, affecting local forest-based economies and social structures, attitudes about forest management practices, and ultimately forest policies. Research in the rural social sciences is helping elucidate the effects of this phenomenon and provide guidance for future research.
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Contemporary patterns of landownership and development are changing the landscape of urban, suburban, and rural areas, fragmenting the forest resource base and raising concerns among a range of stakeholders. A new Landscape Change Integrated Research and Development Program of the USDA Forest Service. North Central Research Station, is examining the character, causes, and effects of these changes as well as the effectiveness of strategies aimed at stemming the negative consequences of landscape change.
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The effects of landscape pattern on forest ecosystems have been a recent focus in forest science. Forest managers are increasingly considering landscape level processes in their manage-ment. Natural disturbance patterns provide one baseline for such management. What has been largely ignored is the pattern of human habitation patterns (i.e., housing), on landscapes. The objective of this study is to discuss landscape level management options for the northwest Wisconsin Pine Barrens based on both landscape ecology and the human demographics of the region. Using the 1990 U.S. Decennial Census we examined current housing density, seasonal housing unit concentration, historic housing density change and projected future housing densities. These data were related to land cover and land ownership data using a GIS. Housing density increase was particularly pronounced in the central Pine Barrens, an area where seasonal housing units are common. Lakes and streams were more abundant in areas that exhibited highest growth. Within national forest lands, 80% of the area contained no housing units. In contrast, only 12% of the area in small private land ownership contained no housing. These results are integrated with previous studies of presettlement vegetation and landscape change to discuss landscape level management suggestions for the Pine Barrens. For. Sci. 47(2):229–241. Acknowledgments: This research was funded by the Wisconsin DNR WIS4109, the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act, Pitman-Robertson Projects #W-160-P and W-160-R; the Wisconsin Agricultural Experiment Station Hatch projects #3865 and #4196; USDA Forest Service project SRS 33-CA-97-131; and by the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, University of Wisconsin-Madison, McIntire-Stennis Project #3885. We also appreciate comments of two anonymous reviewers and the associated editor, which greatly improved this paper.
Conference Paper
Many rural communities in the Rocky Mountain West with high amenity values have experienced substantial in-migration in the 1990s. Popular media accounts and some social science literature suggest that newcomers have very different values than longer-term residents regarding environment, growth, and development issues, and that these differences are resulting in widespread social conflict. We evaluate these "culture clash" and "gangplank" hypotheses using survey data from three rural communities in the Rocky Mountain West that are experiencing amenity-related in-migration. We examine attitudes about environmental concern, population growth, economic development, and tourism development. Results indicate that newcomers differ significantly from longer-term rest dents on a number of sociodemographic dimensions, but either there are no significant attitude differences between the two groups, or, where difference exist, longer-term residents wish more strongly than newcomers to limit population growth and development in their communities. We offer explanations for why the results differ from media accounts and from the earlier research observations and hypotheses.
Social and economic considerations are among the most important drivers of landscape change, yet few studies have addressed economic and environmental influences on landscape structure, and how land ownership may affect landscape dynamics. Watersheds in the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, and the southern Appalachian highlands of western North Carolina were studied to address two questions: (1) Does landscape pattern vary among federal, state, and private lands? (2) Do land-cover changes differ among owners, and if so, what variables explain the propensity of land to undergo change on federal, state, and private lands? Landscape changes were studied between 1975 and 1991 by using spatial databases and a time series of remotely sensed imagery. Differences in landscape pattern were observed between the two study regions and between different categories of land ownership. The proportion of the landscape in forest cover was greatest in the southern Appalachians for both U.S. National Forest and private lands, compared to any land-ownership category on the Olympic Peninsula. Greater variability in landscape structure through time and between ownership categories was observed on the Olympic Peninsula. On the Olympic Peninsula, landscape patterns did not differ substantially between commercial forest and state Department of Natural Resources lands, both of which are managed for timber, but differed between U.S. National Forest and noncommercial private land ownerships. In both regions, private lands contained less forest cover but a greater number of small forest patches than did public lands. Analyses of land-cover change based on multinomial logit models revealed differences in land-cover transitions through time, between ownerships, and between the two study regions. Differences in land-cover transitions between time intervals suggested that additional factors (e.g., changes in wood products or agricultural prices, or changes in laws or policies) cause individuals or institutions to change land management. The importance of independent variables (slope, elevation, distance to roads and markets, and population density) in explaining land-cover change varied between ownerships. This methodology for analyzing land-cover dynamics across land units that encompass multiple owner types should be widely applicable to other landscapes.
Abstract Many rural communities in the Rocky Mountain West with high amenity values have experienced substantial in-migration in the 1990s. Popular media accounts and some social science literature suggest that newcomers have very different values than longer-term residents regarding environment, growth, and development issues, and that these differences are resulting in widespread social conflict. We evaluate these “culture clash” and “gangplank” hypotheses using survey data from three rural communities in the Rocky Mountain West that are experiencing amenity-related in-migration. We examine attitudes about environmental concern, population growth, economic development, and tourism development. Results indicate that newcomers differ significantly from longer-term residents on a number of sociodemographic dimensions, but either there are no significant attitude differences between the two groups, or, where difference exist, longer-term residents wish more strongly than newcomers to limit population growth and development in their communities. We offer explanations for why the results differ from media accounts and from the earlier research observations and hypotheses.
The cumulative effects problem in natural resource management and land use planning stems from the difficulty of demonstrating that while each single land use change results in a negligible impact, the accumulation of these individual changes over time and within a landscape or region may constitute a major impact. This paper details a general approach to estimate the cumulative effects of land use change on wildlife habitat using Summit County, CO, USA as a case study. Our approach is based on a functional relationship between effect on habitat and distance from development. Within this building-effect distance, habitat is assumed to be degraded, producing a disturbance zone. We sum the total area within the disturbance zone and track how it changes over time and in response to different land use planning actions. This method is sensitive to both housing density and spatial pattern, so that the relative effects of clustered development can be evaluated. Two factors are important in understanding how development potentially degrades habitat: alteration of habitat near buildings and roads and landscape fragmentation. Our results show clustered development reduces the negative impacts on wildlife habitat. For large building-effect distances, spatial pattern was found to be a stronger indicator of disturbance than density. Efforts to decrease habitat disturbance by lowering development density should include the regulation of subdivision pattern in addition to decreasing density.