For any wooded property, developing a Forest Management Plan will allow you to consider the possibilities for the use and stewardship of your land, and identify the steps to get to the future you envision. Opportunities to harvest timber, to enhance wildlife habitat, or to improve the woods for any potential use can be identified before action is taken to ensure that you have complete information available before choosing to harvest trees or work toward improving your woods.
Development of a plan involves consultation with the landowner to understand your goals, needs, desires, and uses for the property. This is followed by a detailed inventory of your forest to delineate distinct management areas and produce information such as the number of trees, species composition, crowdedness, and average tree size of each area. Using this, your forester will provide recommendations based on your goals and a desired future condition for each management area, and work with you to select conservation practices or schedule timber harvesting on a schedule that works for you.
Many landowners who seek the help of a forester for developing a management plan participate in one or more of the following programs:
Funding for the development of a Forest Management Plan is available through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) which is administered by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS pay rates are typically sufficient to pay for most, and sometimes all, of the cost of having a Forest Management Plan (Conservation Activity Plan 106) developed.
Once a Forest Management Plan is submitted and approved, program participants can apply for additional funding to implement the conservation practices in their forest management plan.
Though funding cannot be guaranteed, most applicants meet program eligibility criteria, and application for new forest management plans are commonly approved.
To apply, contact your local NRCS Service Center. (link leaves website)
Section 480a of New York’s Real Property Tax Law allows for a significantly reduced tax assessment on 50 or more contiguous acres of forestland which have been committed to the continued production of a forest crop as prescribed in an approved Forest Management Plan. Property assessments may be reduced by as much as 80%. This program is administered by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Forested land enrolled in this program must meet certain requirements, which may be influenced by their density, composition, and harvest history. Reductions in tax assessment apply only to forested acreage enrolled in the program, and not to structures or other improvements, or to acreage which is ineligible for enrollment or has been optionally omitted. Once property is enrolled, it is difficult to exit from the program quickly without penalty.
Costs associated with participation in this program may include:
· Having a Forest Management Plan developed
· Filing fees in the initial exemption process
· Keeping boundary lines marked as required
· Five-Year Updates of your Forest Management Plan
· 6% of stumpage value from harvested timber, paid to the County
· Non-commercial treatments such as Forest Stand Improvement
· Lost opportunities on committed acreage (e.g. development)
The 480a Program is a great way to save significantly on your taxes, but it is important to be certain that the requirements of the program do not conflict with your goals for the property. This program is best suited to landowners who plan to keep their forests as forests, and who want to implement good stewardship of their land for the long run. Because the program is designed to incentivize the sustainable production of wood products, the option to manage for other objectives can be compromised even though compatible uses of the land are allowed. It is possible to omit eligible acreage from enrollment so long as minimum of 50 acres is enrolled, but this should be done in advance of enrollment.
For more information about this program, visit the DEC’s website. (link leaves website)
The American Tree Farm System® is a program of the American Forest Foundation which recognizes forest owners for their good stewardship. Those who meet eligibility criteria, and have a written Forest Management Plan which addresses current ATFS Standards of Sustainability earn the distinction of calling their property an American Tree Farm, and displaying the iconic Tree Farm sign.
Forest owners who wish to participate in the American Tree Farm System can do so in concert with other programs such as 480a, EQIP, or the Forest Stewardship Program.
Foresters who are Qualified Tree Farm Inspectors can confirm that eligibility criteria are met to certify or recertify a Tree Farm.
More Information about Tree Farm Certification can be fount on the ATFS website. (link leaves website)