Forest land use responses to wood product markets
Land use measurements collected by the Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program allow for monitoring and modeling changes among a detailed set of land use categories. We analyze these data in the southeastern United States to test hypotheses regarding the influence of timber and other land rents, population growth, and various topographic position variables on transitions among rural and developed land uses. This region provides a complete and recent set of land use and forest measurement, is the most important and dynamic timber production region in the world, and increasingly is the focus of international policy debates regarding wood based bioenergy. This analysis is the first to link specific land use changes with forest conditions for modeling rural land use response. While previous studies have relied on aggregate measures of timber values, the detailed forest condition measures allow for site-specific estimates of timber quasi-rents, providing new and unique insights into the influence of timber market conditions on land use changes. Results provide an empirical analysis of the influence of timber rent on transitions to all other uses and specifically show that higher timber rents reduce transitions of forests to all other rural land uses as well as to developed land uses. The latter finding is unique and provides support for the claim that stronger timber markets enhance the area of forests and alter patterns of land use change including patterns of development in the southeastern United States.