Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2014 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Marylandís Forest Conservation Act and the Impact on Residential Development and Forest Cover Change in Baltimore County
Newburn, David
Co-Authors: Jeff Ferris

Abstract: Forest cover provides ecosystem services that are not fully captured by private landowner decisions. Our purpose is to analyze the heterogeneous effect of Marylandís Forest Conservation Act (FCA) on residential development and estimate the additionality in forest cover due to this policy. We use a spatially explicit panel dataset of residential subdivisions during 1985-2000 in Baltimore County, Maryland. The econometric model has two stages that are jointly estimated. The first stage model is a panel probit model on the landowner decision to develop or remain undeveloped. The second stage models the change in the proportion of forest cover on the property, conditional on development in the first stage. The FCA policy was adopted in 1993 allowing us to model landowner development decisions during the periods before FCA adoption (1985-1992) and after FCA adoption (1993-2002). To characterize parcel-level forest cover change, we utilize satellite-based data from the North American Forest Dynamics Project measuring forest cover on an approximately biannual basis between 1985 and 2004. Our results indicate that after introducing the policy, there was a 22% increase in forest cover within subdivisions relative to the amount without the policy. The heterogeneous effects of this policy suggest that forest cover increased on average for parcels with lower levels of existing forest cover. However, parcels with the highest levels of forest cover continue to have significant decreases in forest cover, despite the policy, thereby resulting in fragmentation in regions with the most intact forest cover.