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How declining size of private forest land holdings impacts public forest lands

Photo of Snapshot : What happens to neighboring public forest lands when a piece of privately held forest land is split into multiple ownership pieces, a process that scientists call "parcelization"? Forest Service social scientist Stephanie Snyder, along with colleagues at the University of Minnesota, explored this question by gathering information from natural resource managers who work for public agencies in the Lake States of Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Snyder, Stephanie 
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2017
Highlight ID : 1199


The splitting up of private forest land into smaller ownership units, or “parcelization,” is associated with loss of wildlife habitat and timber availability, diminished water quality, and greater restrictions on recreational access to those lands. It also may be a forerunner to forest land development. Forest Service scientists and their research partners surveyed public land managers to enhance understanding of parcelization and its impacts on the public lands they manage. While forest land parcelization has largely been viewed as a private forest land issue, the scientists found it has implications for public forest lands and the benefits they provide. Most public natural resource managers surveyed have observed increases in forest land parcelization and have helped identify important linkages between private forest land parcelization and public land management. These linkages include: increased conflict, decreased access, and increased recreation demand on public land. Managers also identified higher costs of managing public lands as a consequence of the need to devote more resources to fostering relationships and negotiating access arrangements with neighboring private landowners--arrangements necessary to maintain cross-boundary trails and right-of-way access. Decreased timber supply on private forest land may also impact demand for these services on public forest land. These are important findings and trends for public land managers to be aware of as they consider future management for public forest lands and how best to meet society’s needs for the goods and services they provide.