Author

Lindsay Utley

Date of Award

5-2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Forest Resources

Advisor

John Daigle

Second Committee Member

Jessica Leahy

Third Committee Member

James Acheson

Abstract

The Northern Forest spans across four New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York) and is the largest expanse of contiguous forestland east of the Mississippi. Public access to private land is a time-honored tradition in the region, partially because the landscape affords prime outdoor recreation activities, and also because there is a lack of public land available for recreationists. Prior to the 1980s, most of the 26 million acres in the Northern Forest were owned by paper and/or forest product companies. Due to a complicated mix of global and economic changes, these companies began to sell their lands at exceptional rates, introducing new and diverse landowners to the Northeast. As these land transactions took place, forestland stakeholders began to speculate what these changes would mean for the traditional use of private land. Our first manuscript investigates to what extent small and large landowners are concerned about liability issues. This manuscript also examines liability concerns between the Northern Forest states in order to determine if particular state laws protect landowners more and whether landowners are aware of this coverage. We found that small landowners are less familiar and more concerned about liability issues than large landowners. On a state-by-state basis, Maine landowners are most familiar with liability laws and are less concerned about being taken to court than New Hampshire, Vermont, or New York landowners. Manuscript II focuses strictly on large landowner posting behavior in the Northern Forest. We found that length of ownership is not a significant variable for posting likelihood. However, there was a correlation between the type of land-use a property is managed for and the activities permitted on the land. Timber/Forest product companies and Real Estate Investment Trusts allow more extractive and trail-riding recreation activities than those managing for recreation or for nature conservation. In lieu of these findings, we suggest more outreach and education efforts are made towards landowners regarding liability coverage in their state, especially for small landowners. Our results indicate that new landowners in the Northern Forest maintain free public access to their lands, therefore, continued monitoring of landowners with different tenure length will prove beneficial to trends in land sales and how these transactions affect public access to private land. In addition, having a better understanding of primary reasons for ownership and how this in itself may affect access policy is a useful tool for forestland stakeholders.

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