VIRGINIA BOARD OF FORESTRY

Senate Joint Resolution #75
Public Meeting Summary
Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center
July 20, 2004

At a public meeting held at Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center in Abingdon, Virginia, on the evening of July 20, 2004, five Virginia residents spoke in response to the following question:

“What factors, issues, and concerns affect your decision to own, manage, and conserve forestland?”

The comments of the speakers have been briefly summarized and compiled in the following paragraphs. Topics that were addressed by more than one speaker are listed in parentheses.

Taxation

Tax Credit for BMP. Timber owners should receive tax credits to cover the costs of following Best Management Practices (BMP).

Mandatory Use Value Taxation. Use Value taxation should be mandatory in every Virginia County.

Conservation Incentives

Statewide Forest Policy. In order to ensure the long-term health and sustainability of the state’s forest resource, Virginia needs to develop a statewide forest policy. This policy should provide mechanisms through which private landowners are compensated -not taxed- for investing in the Commonwealth’s shared aesthetic beauty.

Timber Stand Improvement Program. In order to provide landowners with financial incentive to invest in their forestland, additional funds should be allocated to the Timber Stand Improvement Program. As part of the Stewardship Incentive Program, the Timber Stand Improvement Program pays landowners by the acre to thin out timber stands and enhance timber growth and quality on their forestland. If more money were allocated to this program, it may provide Virginia landowners with a tangible incentive to retain forestland.

Logger Incentives. Incentives should be made available to loggers encouraging accountability, safety, and environmental responsibility.

Costs vs. Benefits. When the costs/burdens of owning forestland exceed the revenue produced by the land, landowners tend to convert their property into other uses. In order to entice landowners to maintain open spaces, legislators must increase revenue and reduce costs associated with managing forestland.

Incentive Certification. As an attempt to promote responsible and sustainable forestry, landowners would qualify for special financial incentives only after completing forestry certification training.

BMP Conservation Easements. Land under a conservation easement should adhere to Best Management Practices.

VDOF Staff. Virginia’s forest resource would greatly benefit from a personnel expansion within the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Conservation Disincentives

Local Regulation. Local regulations should not hinder a landowner’s capacity to maximize timber profits. In general, regulation is a disincentive for forest ownership and landowners are naturally suspicious of regulators.

Forest Management

Defining Forestland. Rules and incentives regarding forestry should only apply to those forests developed by nature. Tree plantations would not qualify under this definition.

Pre-Harvest Plan. Landowners should be strongly encouraged to have a pre-harvest plan on their tracts of timber.

Opposition to Clear-Cutting. Timber harvests involving clear cuts pose a serious threat to Virginia’s environmental health and should be discouraged. They are responsible for flooding, lowering of the water table, loss of biodiversity, and the removal of topsoil.

Wildlife in Tree Plantations. Tree plantations should support 10 percent of the wildlife of a healthy, natural forest tract.

Other Issues

VDOF Location Change. The Virginia Department of Forestry should be relocated to the Department of Natural Resources.