VIRGINIA BOARD OF FORESTRY

Senate Joint Resolution #75
Public Meeting Summary
Dorey Recreation Center
July 28, 2004

At a public meeting held at Dorey Recreation Center in Richmond, Virginia, on the evening of July 28, 2004, 14 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.

Incentives

Need incentives in the timber industry to develop products made of things other than wood to help preserve hardwood forests. A tax break for recycled plastics, recycled pallets, reclamation of old buildings, etc. would be an incentive.

Landowners need equitable compensation for giving up development rights, not just tax breaks, but cash.

Virginia needs a tax incentive for landowners to reforest their tree farm after harvesting.

There should be an easily implemented state supported tax credit, especially for riparian areas, wet areas, and environmentally sensitive areas.

Estate Taxation

Death Tax: The death tax needs to be repealed by the General Assembly.

Estate Tax: There needs to be permanent tax repeal for federal and state estate taxes. Landowners need more information on how best to pass land on to their heirs.

Property Taxation:
Statewide Land Use Tax (4)

Real estate tax levels should be appropriate for the forestry practices used that the land will be maintained in.

Essex County does not offer land-use tax incentives. A lot of other counties throughout the state do not offer a land-use incentive.

Land-use tax is a great help to landowners in Henrico. There is concern that Henrico may drop land-use for that county. It would be beneficial to landowners with multiple landholdings to have consistency in land use programs from county to county.

Real Estate Taxes (4).

Some of the largest expense for absentee landowners is the real estate taxes.

Absentee landowners are taxed for services that they do not use. The state needs to come up with some alternatives so landowners are taxed on what services they use, not on all services available.

The biggest threat to forest landowners is the increasing real estate tax rates, and assessments increases. Recommend an embargo to eliminate further increase in the real estate taxes.

There is a dire need for a property tax reform. State government needs to reduce private property taxes.

Purchase of Development Rights

Perpetuity Clause (2): If legislation is developed for development rights in perpetuity, there needs to be the option for the landowner to void the agreement if the restrictions do not allow reasonable economic use.

Taxes have increased and people are starting to sell their land. Would like to see PDR in Henrico County as an option for landowners to use so they can keep their land. If the state program gets rolling, localities will follow suit.

Conservation Easements

Flexibility (2): Conservation easements can be positive, but many are not flexible for real world situations. As previously stated, “forever is a long time.” Conservation easements need to be more flexible. Landowners need easier alternatives when considering conservation easements.

Local Ordinances

Local Ordinances (5): There is a lot of petty politics at the local level. Restrict local government from enacting forestry ordinances that limit when and how landowners harvest. Recommend that subdivision classed as A1 in the Code be re-examined and possibly changed because it is pro-development.

A state law should be enacted to prevent local governments from creating ordinances that conflict with state forestry laws in Virginia.

Landowners sometimes take their land out of production because of local ordinances and/or restrictions for riparian, wet areas, and environmental sensitive areas.

Forest Management/Forestry Programs

No Net Loss of Forestlands Policy: Virginia has a policy on “no net loss of wetlands” policy. State should consider a “no wet loss of forestlands” policy. If the forest was recognized for the amount of clean water and clean air they are producing, there would be quite a value on this. If a developer took forestland and was required to restore forestland in another area for every acre they used to build a home, there would be more incentive to concentrate where infrastructure is. If landowners are serious about maintaining the forest land base in Virginia, this should be considered.

Right to Practice Forestry (5): Landowners right to practice good forest management should be protected. Landowners should have the right to harvest their timber without restrictions, recognizing best management practices and the benefits of such to the forest.

More and more individuals feel they have a vested interest in private land and think they have the right to say what happens with the land.

Any law, regulation, or policy that impacts forest industry will eventually flow back to the forest landowners, either good or bad. Landowners need the right to actively manage their forestland.

A private property should be recognized by state and local governments.

RT Program (4): Funding from the state for the Reforestation of Timberlands program match has been sporadic. RT funds need to be fully funded and matched according to the Code of Virginia. The state’s portion is approximately $300,000 per year. This is funding that is not available for landowners to reforest their forest land. Landowners only have access to one-half of total funding that should be available for reforestation.

Cost-share program: Small landowners need help in marketing timber. For small landowners, hiring consultants is too expensive. State incentives to help landowners with costs incurred in harvesting their timber might encourage more people to use it. A cost share program for small landowners that involves a sliding scale based on the value of the timber harvested may encourage more landowners to preserve their forestland.

Department of Forestry

DOF Staffing (4)

State budgets have reduced the number of employees in the Department of Forestry, thus reducing the type of assistance previously available. The state needs to provide additional funding to the Department of Forestry to ensure they have adequate staff to provide better services to landowners.

Other Comments

(2) Landowners will need a strong and healthy forest industry to maintain timber in forest. A strong diverse market is also necessary. State government should provide support and funding for economic development to attract and keep forest products industry and support for domestic and international forest products.

Landowners need a continuous and reliable system of support, giving them access to professionals (Department of Forestry) to answer questions and provide guidance for landowners to achieve their forest management goals. Other resources are also available for landowners.

Society is loving its forestland to death.

There is a lack of products for low grade wood. Industry needs to look at options for new products and make use of them. With proper research and funding, this can be done. Funding is available through Virginia Forests Educational Foundation for educational activities, under graduate student scholarships, wood magic, etc. Although funding is earmarked for research, none is currently being used for this purpose.

There is a concern that within the next 10 years, most of Mecklenburg County will be in pine plantations and not indigenous hardwoods.

Telemarketing programs calling landowners regarding bugs in trees, etc. wanting to buy their timber are taking advantage of them. Landowners are satisfied with their land management and the timber industry misleads them into performing unnecessary work. There needs to be educational programs for landowners so they will know the value of their land. Regulations need to be developed to govern what telemarketers can advise landowners.

More state funding is needed for Virginia Tech, College of Natural Resources, to aid in research and Outreach to forest landowners through Virginia Extension Service.

(2) State leaders need to recognize that traditional forest land uses make significant economic contributions to Virginia and its citizens. These uses are the driving force for long-term protection of the forest resource that is prized by Virginians for its high quality of life. Landowners are the ones that pay for the public’s benefit.

Urban forestry has economic benefits, but takes land out of forest production.

As a landowner, I am supportive of water quality, endangered species, etc., but do not want to pay the full price for that.

Volunteer best management practices are the best way to operate; do not want to see Virginia go to mandatory status.