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Individual Highlight

Forest and Agricultural Land Area Declines in Washington State While Residential and Urban Land Use Increases Over Past 30 years

Photo of An agricultural area near Sequim, Washington, with recent housing developments on previous agricultural and forest resource lands. Andrew Gray, USDA Forest ServiceAn agricultural area near Sequim, Washington, with recent housing developments on previous agricultural and forest resource lands. Andrew Gray, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Station scientists and partners assessed changes in land use and housing density across Washington state from 1976 to 2006. They found that the population in Washington increased by 2.5 million people, leading to the conversion of 1.16 million acres of forest and agricultural land to residential and urban land uses.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Gray, Andrew 
Research Location : Washington
Research Station : Pacific Northwest Research Station (PNW)
Year : 2013
Highlight ID : 513

Summary

Changes in human land use patterns have wide ranging social, economic, and ecological implications. Station scientists and partners assessed changes in land use and housing density across Washington state between 1976 to 2006. They found that the population in Washington increased by 2.5 million people, leading to the conversion of 1.16 million acres of forest and agricultural land to residential and urban land uses. Nonfederal forest lands declined 4.7 percent over 30 years (an annual rate of 0.2 percent�the equivalent of losing a football field-sized area every 42 minutes each year). Agricultural lands in western Washington declined at a rate of 0.7 percent per year, for a net loss of 22 percent over 30 years. Housing density on these resource lands also increased, particularly around agricultural areas. Low-density residential lands increased substantially, more than doubling over 30 years in eastern Washington. The loss of nonfederal forestland in Washington to development could represent a significant impact on resource availability, including timber production as well as wildlife habitat. Increased density of houses in and near resource lands can also affect their resource production, habitat quality, and difficulty in fighting wildfire. Providing comprehensive, consistent information on the type and location of land-use changes in Washington enables assessment of desirable and undesirable impacts and provides a foundation for future assessments and comparison to development in neighboring states.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • USDA Forest Service Forest Health Monitoring Program
  • Oregon Department of Forestry

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