Forests, Wildlife & Communities Project

Forest Fragmentation and Parcelization

Maintaining the long-term viability of Vermont's forests for wildlife, recreation, timber products, carbon sequestration, and watershed protection is integral to our economy and quality of life. This is why the increasing fragmentation of our forests deserves public attention.

Trends show that forest fragmentation through parcelization (the subdivision of forestland into smaller pieces and multiple ownerships) is gaining momentum. On a regional scale, between 1980 and 2005, approximately 23.8 million acres changed hands in the Northern New England Forest, an area nearly equal to the entire 26 million acre region.

Amazingly, 45% of these land transactions occurred during the last five years. While many of these transactions may have involved the same parcel of land, they indicate a recent trend in real estate activity that has helped to drive an increase in land values in the region, and to a certain degree, the parcelization of our forests.

Satellite imagery data show that Vermont is beginning to lose our forest base in a noticeable way for the first time since our forests were heavily cut around the turn of the last century. When large areas of forestland are sold and subdivided the result is often a disjointed land ownership pattern that promotes new housing and requires infrastructure development (roads, septic, utilities and other services).

In the process of building more homes, wildlife and plant habitat is also fragmented; species that require larger areas of forest land to survive and reproduce are adversely affected.

More information on Forest Fragmentation, refer to "Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Reducing Forest Fragmentation in Vermont" (1.6 MB pdf) by Jamey Fidel of the Vermont Natural Resources Council

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