The overhaul of these nearly 50-year-old regulations are hoped by DEC to lessen the administrative burden on participating forest landowners, help the Department promote compliance with requirements in place, and maintain and improve sustainable timber management on enrolled lands.
The State of New York enacted the 480a forest tax law in 1974. Nearly 1.4 million acres owned by approximately 4,000 private forest land are currently enrolled in the Forest Tax Law program.
Prior to developing these new regulatory proposals, DEC Lands and Forests staff held 10 meetings across the state with stakeholders to discuss proposed changes to 480a that would increase compliance, reduce administrative burdens to landowners and DEC, and improve forestry outcomes. The feedback resulted in proposed changes that would not alter the annual tax benefit, stumpage tax, commitment period, or penalties for non-compliance.
The proposed changes include:
- Extending the period an approved forest management plan would cover from 15 years to 20 years and requiring fewer plan updates;
- Providing more flexibility to enrolled landowners to complete forestry treatments by changing the work schedule from year-by-year deadlines to a 10-year work window;
- Strengthening forest sustainability requirements on enrolled lands, such as explicitly banning high grading and requiring efforts to establish adequate forest regeneration. High grading involves removing most of the commercially valuable trees at the expense of future growth and future financial return, often leaving a forest in poor condition; and
- Establishing a training requirement for consulting foresters working with Forest Tax Law clients to help set clear expectations and standardize Forest Tax Law administration across the state.
The proposed changes would go into effect on March 1st, 2023.
DEC is holding two virtual public comment hearings on September 13th, and will be accepting public comments through September 19th. The public is encouraged to submit comments in writing to: NYSDEC Private Lands and Forest Utilization Section, Bureau of Forest Resource Management 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-7254 or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The virtual public comment hearings will be held on September 1th3 at 1 pm and 6 pm. For more information about the new and revised regulations, as well as how to participate in the public comment hearings, visit DEC’s website.
Photo: Blue Lake in Sterling Forest State Park courtesy State Parks.