Land parcelization is one of several factors contributing to forest fragmentation, which in turn has been linked to numerous environmental degradations, including declines in water quality (Dillon et al., 1994), wildlife habitat (Brooks, 2003), and reduced access to public for hunting and recreational pursuits. Parcelization, the division of tracts of land into smaller holdings, is often accompanied by changes in ownership, land use/land cover and public access, and development. The increased trend toward divestiture of land holdings by forest product companies is well-documented in Minnesota and elsewhere. The Phase 1 report of the Minnesota Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan identified habitat degradation, fragmentation, and consumptive use of land (conversion of land through development and associated infrastructure) as three of the main drivers of change affecting Minnesota’s land resources (Swackhamer et al 2007).
Mundell et al (2007) recently completed an analysis of forest parcelization using land records from Itasca County. By using Minnesota Department of Revenue records from 1995 through 2006, they were able to identify subdivisions of ~40 acre parcels. They were also able to quantify changes in property tax classifications (e.g. forest undeveloped land to residential land), and assess the number and rate at which parcels were ultimately developed (changes in land value associated with presence of structures on the property). They found that parcelization rates for Itasca County were about 0.4% per year, or approximately half the typical rate of forest harvest (~1.0% per year). With the exception of 2002, when the elimination of Minnesota’s Tree Growth Tax Law caused a spike in the percentage of parcels classified as forest undeveloped land, the rate of parcelization has been relatively constant at 45-50 divisions per year across the county.
There were strong spatial variations associated with parcelization. Parcelization was greatest near municipalities – high rates were observed near the cities of Grand Rapids and Deer River. Parcelization was positively associated with proximity to water and to public lands.
The findings from this and other research provide a basis for a county-scale regional assessment of the relative potential for parcelization of private lands. The objectives of this study were to assess and map the relative potential for parcelization for private lands within Itasca County, related this to a critical habitat database developed as part of the Statewide Plan for Conservation and Preservation.
Host, George E; Brown, Terry.
Quantifying parcelization potential of forest lands in Itasca County, north central Minnesota.
University of Minnesota Duluth.
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