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Changes in Rural Private Land Ownership in the Southeastern United States
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Changes in the demand for rural land in combination with rapid population growth and rising land market values threatens privately owned farms, ranches and forests (i.e., “working lands”), and the ecosystem services they provide across the United States. These factors collectively facilitate the sub-division and conversion of working lands (i.e., ownership fragmentation). As such, ownership fragmentation can have serious implications for how landscapes are managed, given varying management objectives among landowners and the external pressures they exert on each other. While most land fragmentation studies are conducted within small spatial scales, focusing on the spatial discontinuity of land or habitat, ownership fragmentation focuses instead on the human aspect of landscapes. I used data reported by the United States Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture and the United States Census Bureau to evaluate ownership fragmentation metrics and social drivers of land ownership change across a large geographic region. I used these data to quantify ownership fragmentation and explanatory variables that are hypothesized to explain variation in ownership fragmentation (e.g., total population, asset value per acre), and to analyze the systematic forces that influence ownership fragmentation of working lands across the southeastern United States. I identified important trends and relationships between ownership fragmentation, population, and land value across the southeastern United States that can be used to inform public and private decision makers, and to evaluate land use policies in light of conservation and natural resource policy efforts to maintain critical resources and ecosystem services delivered from privately owned land.
Census of Agriculture
Average farm size
Proportion of agricultural land
Acres of farms
Number of farms
Engeling, Lauren Adeline (2016). Changes in Rural Private Land Ownership in the Southeastern United States. Master's thesis, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from