Vermont Forest Parcelization Online ToolDec. 4th 2018
The rural landscape of Vermont is changing. Large tracts of land are being broken up through subdivision and development. This parcelization is resulting in a loss of forest cover in Vermont for the first time in over a century. As tracts of land are divided among more parcel owners, more homes are built, along with roads and utility lines. The fragments that are created disrupt wildlife habitat and recreational access – and impact water quality and the economic and ecological viability of the forests.
The Vermont Natural Resources Council, with support from the Northeastern States Research Cooperative and key partners including Brian Voigt, of the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, and Steve Sharp of the Vermont Center for Geographic Information, developed an online forest parcelization tool to understand where it is occurring and at what rate. Researchers used data from Grand List (tax) data and Use Value Appraisal data from 2004-2016. The Use Value Appraisal program values private land based on forestry and agricultural use rather than residential or commercial development value. Trends within the data were investigated, including:
- Number of parcels
- Parcel sizes
- Parcel types
- Land values
- Use Value Appraisal program enrollment (although this data is incomplete and is being updated to include all relevant acreage)
Through the use of the datasets, researchers report that the amount of land in larger parcels is shrinking and the amount of land in smaller parcels is increasing.
The analysis of the data allowed researchers to understand where and at what rate parcelization is occurring. Residential acreage increased by 7% over time, while undeveloped woodland parcels decreased by 12-15% over time. Much of the loss in undeveloped forestland acreage was in parcels of 50 acres or larger. Additionally, land value has nearly doubled in Vermont.
If we don’t take action to address the trends we’re seeing now, in 50 years we’ll have lost nearly 60% of our undeveloped, privately owned woodland parcels.”
According Lead Principal Investigator Jamey Fidel, Forest and Wildlife Program Director at Vermont Natural Resources Council:
In order to address these trends, researchers developed recommendations to reduce parcelization and forest fragmentation in Vermont. Recommendations include increasing incentives to keep land tracts in tact through conservation easements and succession planning; strengthening land use regulations for natural resources protection; and designing subdivisions with conservation and natural resources in mind. Maintenance of the database and land use records is also recommended to help policy-makers, municipalities and managers continue to track parcelization rates and land use change.
The online tool allows users to explore data to understand how land use change is impacting regions, counties, and towns across Vermont. Metrics can be selected to visualize change over time and geography. The online tool is available at https://vtforesttrends.vnrc.org. The website includes a report that analyzes the data and provides recommendations to address the trends.