Human dimensions of private forest landownership: sampling, estimation, decision making processes, and implications

Open Access
Metcalf, Alexander Leventon
Graduate Program:
Forest Resources
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
July 09, 2010
Committee Members:
  • James Craig Finley, Dissertation Advisor
  • James Craig Finley, Committee Chair
  • Albert E Luloff, Committee Member
  • Barbara Muth, Committee Member
  • Eric Zenner, Committee Member
  • Richard C Stedman, Committee Member
  • landowners
  • statistics
  • spatial
  • landuse
  • survey
  • mixed methods
Private forest landowners (PFLs) own the vast majority of eastern US forests and collectively decide how these forests are managed and, ultimately, whether or not they remain forested. The US has long relied on private forests to provide clean air, protect watersheds and stream banks, the aesthetic backdrops to cities, towns, and communities, countless recreation opportunities, and habitat for myriad species of wildlife, plants, and fungi. Private forests have also provided the majority of US timber supply and economic opportunities for timber production. While research of this important population has been conducted for many years, little has been done to standardize sampling of PFLs and estimation of population parameters thus frustrating comparisons among studies and efforts to track changes over time. This dissertation challenges the presumptions with which PFL research has been previously conducted, lays a foundation for sound, future research, and begins exploring important aspects of private forest landowership. The research presented here focuses primarily on the approaches employed by the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service to sample PFLs and estimate parameters of the PFL population and of private forestland across the nation. Issues revealed substantively challenge traditional approaches and long-held conclusions about the underpinnings of PFL research as well as how these PFLs have influenced the use and conversion of US forests. With a new foundation, this dissertation also explores decision making processes and the effects of PFL attitudes, values, and beliefs on timber utilization on private lands in the context of an increasingly parcelized forest.