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CIPEC

a research center of the Office of the Vice Provost for Research at Indiana University Bloomington
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| About this Project | Summary Report | County Land Use Trends | Project Members | HSD Publications |

Initial Summary Report to Respondent Landowners in Land-Decision Survey

Land ownership. Nearly 85% of the respondents purchased their land, with the remaining 15% having inherited their land. Most respondents took ownership of their land after 1990, but 38% of the land was owned by the respondents' families for more than 30 years. 

Respondent land use. On average, respondents indicated that approximately 39% of their land was forested. Thirty-six percent (36%) of the land is farmed, 15% is mowed or hayed, and about 10% is grazed. 

Surrounding land uses. More than half of the respondents observed residential development on nearby properties. Additionally, timber harvesting was observed on nearby properties by 42% of the respondents.

Figure 1. Reported changes occurring on nearby properties
HSD Figure 1: Reported changes occurring on nearby properties

Sources of information for making land-management decisions. Respondents stated that family and friends are the main sources of information, followed by printed information, neighbors, and private and government professionals. Tax accountants and sales representatives were not considered to be valuable sources of information for land-use decision making.

Table 1. Usefulness of different sources of information for land-management decisions
Information Source Very useful (%) Somewhat useful (%) Not useful (%) Never used (%) Number of responses
Friends, family 17 46 12 25 1835
Printed information 13 47 11 29 1803
Neighbors 13 37 16 34 1824
Privately contracted professionals 13 23 13 51 1780
Forestry officials 13 23 13 51 1791
Agriculture officials 12 31 13 44 1799
Internet 9 31 16 44 1768
Tax accountants, legal professionals 6 22 18 54 1779
Radio, television, newspapers 4 31 24 41 1789
Sales representative 1 7 22 70 1222
Other 4 2 8 86 830

Government and non-government programs related to land use. The majority of landowners do not participate in government or non-government land-management programs. Many landowners are unfamiliar with these types of programs, although landowners are more familiar with the Classified Forest Program, Classified Reserve Program, and Wetland Reserve Program than other programs. 

Table 2. Familiarity with government and non-government programs related to land use
Program Used (%) Heard of (%) Looked into (%) Never heard of (%) Number of responses
Classified Reserve Program (CRP) 11 35 3 51 1818
Classified Forest Program (CFP) 9 43 5 43 1806
Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) 3 36 3 58 1805
Forestry cost share 2 15 2 81 1781
Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) 1 45 3 51 1781
Land trust easement 1 29 2 68 1771
Reforestation Tax Credit & Amortization 1 15 2 82 1760
Other(s) 1 10 1 88 415

Tree harvesting. Respondents were asked about tree harvesting on their properties. Twenty-four percent (24%) had cut trees in the past 5 years. Of those who had cut trees, 54% cut sawlogs for commercial sale and 56% cut firewood for personal use.

The majority of respondents indicated that they had cut trees to remove mature trees, improve the quality of remaining trees, supply wood for their own use, or achieve objectives in their management plan. Some respondents indicated that they needed money or the price quoted to them for the timber was very or somewhat important in their decision to harvest. However, for the majority of respondents, the decision to harvest was not a direct result of current economic conditions, but rather was based on a longer time horizon and a goal to improve the quality of the forest. Professional foresters or natural resource professionals assisted in 13% of the harvests.

Table 3. Reasons why trees were harvested or cut
Reason Very important (%) Somewhat important (%) Not important (%) Number of responses
Trees were mature 52 23 25 393
To improve the quality of remaining trees 49 32 19 411
Needed wood for my own use 33 26 41 420
To achieve objectives in my management plan 30 32 38 361
Needed the money 23 24 53 390
To improve wildlife habitat 22 40 38 374
The price was right 21 29 50 373
To clear land for conversion to another use 17 12 71 362
To improve scenic and recreational opportunities 12 21 67 371
To improve hunting opportunities 7 16 77 277
Neighbors logged adjacent tracts 5 7 88 366
Other 28 4 68 117

Forest regrowth. About 20% of respondents reported an increase in forest area on their land in the past 5 years. Of these respondents, the majority increased forest on less than 2 acres of their property, and the most converted land type was pasture. Of those respondents who reported forest regrowth on their property, the majority left their land alone and let it return to forest naturally, although a large percentage (39%) actively planted trees.

We asked the reasons why people planted trees. Responses show that people were mainly concerned with nature conservation and aesthetics. Economic incentives, advice from professionals, and encouragement from neighbors or conservation organizations are not considered to have significant impacts. 

Table 4. Reasons why trees were planted
Reason
Very important (%) Somewhat important (%) Not important (%) Number of responses
To provide food and habitat for wildlife 60 24 16 406
To conserve the natural environment 56 25 19 399
To provide forest for future generations 54 23 23 369
To enhance scenic beauty of this land 46 22 32 373
To improve water quality by controlling erosion 37 27 36 346
Low-cost seedlings from the state were readily available 30 13 57 334
To provide a windbreak 24 26 50 333
I felt the land should be put into timber production 15 12 73 317
Govenment cost-share programs were readily available 10 8 82 309
Tax benefits were available 9 10 81 305
The land was too wet for agriculture 8 11 81 313
A professional forester advised me to do so 6 7 87 307
I had revenue from a timber sale to finance the reforestation 3 4 93 304
County educators advised me to do so 3 4 93 301
Seeing neighbors planting trees prompted me to do so 1 6 93 303
A land trust helped me do it 1 3 96 296
Other 18 2 80 122

Future plans. Nearly 80% of respondents would like their land to remain the same in the future. Others would like to see an increase in forest area, open space, or both. Concurrently, about 13% of respondents plan to increase the amount of forest on their land in the next 5 years. Most of these landowners are considering this due to government incentives and weather/flooding problems. 

Satellite Image Analysis. Satellite data (30-meter resolution) were acquired for a number of dates between 1975 and 2006. The amount of forest cover was quantified for each date by classifying each image into forest or non-forest categories to enable a high accuracy with the final classification dataset. From this analysis, county-level forest trajectories were calculated for the 31-year period. As of 2006, the percentages of area forested in the survey counties were 12.7% in Decatur, 38.89% in Jennings, 54.79% in Monroe, 34.78% in Morgan, 38.22% in Scott, and 39.40% in Washington (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Forest (green) and non-forest (white) areas in Decatur, Jennings, Monroe, Morgan, Scott, and Washington counties in 2006

HSD Figure 2: Forest and non-forest areas in Indiana counties in 2006