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Estimation of Forest Area Affected by Local Ordinances: A Virginia Case Study

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Local governments may enact ordinances that have a substantial impact on forestry operations. Direct estimation of the economic impact of ordinances requires site-specific forest inventory data and management assumptions. In this study, we attempt to quantify, for four counties in Virginia, the forest area that would be subjected to timber harvesting restrictions under local ordinances. Ordinances that restrict timber harvesting within buffer zones of roads, streams, and property boundaries were simulated for four study counties. Using GIS overlay analysis with forest cover data, estimates of forest area within these buffers were obtained. In addition to this direct effect, we considered indirect effects of ordinances as they fragment potential forest management parcels to small sizes (<20 ac) deemed less conducive to operational forest management. Direct effects ranged from 9 to 33% of operable forest area and averaged 21% of operable forest area. Indirect effects averaged 7% of operable forest area, or ⅓ of the direct effect. Ordinances focused on protecting visual quality affected twice as much forest area as ordinances directed toward preserving water quality. Of the total forest area in these four counties, 13.6% lies in protected areas, 27.7% is in inoperable small parcels (prior to ordinances), and 16.7% is affected directly or indirectly by ordinances, leaving only 42% of forest area potentially available for management.

Keywords: GIS; buffer; forest cover; regulations

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-11-01

More about this publication?
  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Southern Journal of Applied Forestry covers an area from Virginia and Kentucky south to as far west as Oklahoma and east Texas.
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