The speculative shadow over timberland values in the U.S. South
In well-functioning markets, forestland prices capture a wealth of information regarding current as well as anticipated uses of land and resources contained on it. They reflect the valuation of current uses and incorporate information regarding productivity, standing timber capital, and the effects of taxes that apply to land and production. Land prices are speculative by definition, so they also incorporate information regarding anticipated future uses of the land and resources. A study of spatial patterns of assessed forestland prices in Georgia shows rising nontimber values in certain locations and suggests shifts in the future use of land and resources. As expected, land prices anticipate future development of forested land at the periphery of urbanizing areas. Rising timberland values also portend changes in land uses in some more rural counties. In these areas, it appears that low-density residential growth and recreational values are having an impact on the uses of timberland that is greater than previously thought. These findings provide some insights into the causes of ongoing shifts in ownership of forested land between industry, individuals, and equity concerns. Anticipated population and income growth in the South could hold important implications for both the supply of timber and the conditions of forestland in a large portion of the region.