Author

Jayne Lello

Date of Award

5-2012

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Liberal Studies

Advisor

James M. Acheson

Second Committee Member

Jessica Leahy

Third Committee Member

Mazie Hough

Abstract

Large areas of the world are being converted to nonforest use. This is true of the state of Maine as well, where the amount of forestland has recently begun to shrink primarily due to sprawl and conversion of land to housing (Acheson and Doak, 2009). The process of deforestation ultimately depends on the decisions of landowners to heavily harvest their land or sell some, or all, of it to others. In this thesis, I focus on specific issues that help us understand the pressures that motivate forest/farm landowners to manage their lands for various uses. Land management might include woodland harvest (light to heavy), farming, inheritance, development, sale of parcels to reduce a piece of property, or purchase of land to expand property lines.

In the following thesis I have compiled and compared the information that I have acquired through personal interviews in a specific geographic region of Maine to promote understanding and documentation of the pressures on private landowners that are changing Maine's forest/farm landscapes. Previous studies of Maine landholders have determined some of the shared issues, statewide, that influence land management practices, and a statewide survey of small farm/forest owners identified specific pressures. The intention of my study was to conduct interviews in greater depth, within a specific geographic area, to understand individual property histories as well as owners' past, present, and future strategies for land use.

Many decisions about forests are determined by monetary factors, but nonmonetary factors were very important too. Just as family genes are passed from generation to generation, so, too, is family land. Sentimental value of property often has as much influence on the ultimate decision to inherit or sell a piece of land as does the monetary value. The first preference of many landowners is to maintain the land in the family. However, in recent decades, escalating land values, increasing taxes, and economic hardships have forced many families to either sell part or all of their land, heavily harvest it, or both.

The same processes are occurring in other areas (Best 2000; Little 2000; Lewis 2001). Forest fragmentation is a serious issue from both worldwide and local perspectives. This raises the point that if we wish to maintain Maine forestland for the future, we may need additional policies, coupled with the ones we have, to encourage this outcome.

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