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Housing growth, forests, and public lands in Northern Wisconsin from 1940 to 2000

Hammer, Roger B., Stewart, Susan I., Hawbaker, Todd J., Radeloff, Volker C.
Journal of environmental management 2009 v.90 no.8 pp. 2690
housing, forests, public lands, rural areas, spatial variation, temporal variation, vegetation cover, human population, population density, population growth, Wisconsin
Rural, forested areas throughout the United States are experiencing strong housing growth with potentially detrimental impacts on the environment. In this paper, we quantify housing growth in Northern Wisconsin over the last sixty years to determine if growth rates were higher near public lands, which may represent an important recreational amenity. We used data from the U.S. Census to produce decadal housing density estimates, “backcasts,” from 1940 to 2000 for northern Wisconsin to examine “rural sprawl” in northern Wisconsin and its relationship to forested areas and public lands. We integrated housing density estimates with the 1992/1993 National Land Cover Dataset to examine the relationship between rural sprawl and land cover, especially forests. Between 1940 and 2000, private land with <2 housing units/km2 decreased from 47% to 21% of the total landscape. Most importantly, housing growth was concentrated along the boundaries of public lands. In 14 of the 19 counties that we studied, housing growth rates within 1 km of a public land boundary exceeded growth rates in the remainder of the county, and three of the five counties that did not exhibit this pattern, were the ones with the least amount of public land. Future growth can be expected in areas with abundant natural amenities, highlighting the critical need for additional research and effective natural resource management and regional planning to address these challenges.