The distribution and objectives of local forestry-related ordinances in the United States

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Virginia Tech

Five hundred and twenty-two forest regulatory ordinances were identified in 493 local governments. The majority of these laws are found in the northeastern United States, which account for over sixty percent of the national total. Southern states contain approximately thirty-percent of this total, with western and central states contributing four and two percent, respectively.

Local forest laws are a relatively recent phenomenon. Over seventy percent of the ordinances identified were enacted in the last ten years, and almost fifty percent have been adopted in the last five years. Strong traditions of local authority, increasing environmental sentiments, reductions in local highway aid, changes in timber hauling methods and state environmental programs have all contributed to the growth of local forest laws.

The objectives of forest ordinances differ dramatically. Ordinances in the northeastern states are usually developed to protect local environmental resources from logging. By contrast, southern ordinances are commonly adopted to safeguard local investments in roads from log hauling, while western laws are enacted to comply with state programs. The requirements of these ordinances and the social attributes of regulated communities vary greatly.

In several cases, local laws are concentrated in areas containing relatively little timberland and low levels of forest activity. In addition, the common requirements of forest ordinances are not viewed as being overly burdensome by loggers and pulpwood operators. For these reasons, local forest laws may impose less of a burden than their sheer numbers would suggest. Although forest ordinances have been extremely burdensome to loggers and forest landowners in certain areas, their the impact must be evaluated in context to local resource and market conditions.