VIRGINIA BOARD OF FORESTRY

Senate Joint Resolution #75
Public Meeting Summary
Northern Virginia Community College
July 14, 2004

At a public meeting held at Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, Virginia, on the evening of July 14, 2004, six 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

Property Taxes (3). Escalating property taxes act as a disincentive for landowners to maintain open spaces.

County Tax Authority. Virginia counties should raise less revenue from property taxes and instead levy additional non-property taxes to raise revenue and alleviate the property tax burden of landowners. Such an arrangement would help prevent landowners from having to sell their land in order to pay the property taxes.

Conservation Incentives

Subsidies. Forestry business owners need government subsidies to maintain a minimum level of operation.

Statewide PDR. Virginia should consider adopting a statewide Purchase of Development Rights program to conserve the Commonwealth’s forestland.

Voluntary Best Management Practices. Virginia should retain the use of “voluntary best management practices”regarding timber harvests. Mandatory best management practice policies interfere with the landowner’s right to practice forestry and should not be adopted.

Water Quality. Better incentives must be provided to forestland owners in order to improve Virginia’s steadily declining water quality.

Conservation Disincentives

Timber Sales (2). Local ordinances should never interfere with a landowner’s ability to maximize timber profits in the free market.

Litigation Costs. Escalating litigation costs for private landowners involved in adverse possession disputes act as disincentives for conserving Virginia’s forestland. Litigation costs for landowners involved in these disputes can often exceed the development potential of the land. While the land in Northern Virginia has grown more valuable, the legal costs associated with protecting it have skyrocketed out of proportion.

Economic Pressure. Forestland owners in northern Virginia experience significant economic pressure to develop their lands. Zoning ordinances are ineffective, reactionary, and inefficient tools for combating this pressure.

Lack of Commercial, Political, Industrial Support. The biggest threats to Virginia’s forestland are the state’s political, commercial, and industrial powers. These stakeholders control the fate of Virginia’s forests, yet they are often motivated and driven by economic interests that threaten the Commonwealth’s environmental resources.

Fragmentation. Fragmentation of Virginia’s forests is a serious threat to the Commonwealth that must be addressed immediately. As forestland becomes fragmented, it becomes less viable and causes forestry to become more of a “hobby” than an integral part of life in Virginia. Fragmenta-tion will eventually cause our forests to disappear.

Forest Management

Surveying. Landowners should be strongly encouraged to survey, maintain, and clearly mark their property boundaries.

MeadWestvaco. MeadWestvaco does an excellent job of helping landowners manage their forestland and harvest timber in a sustainable and responsible fashion.