VIRGINIA BOARD OF FORESTRY

Senate Joint Resolution #75
Public Meeting Summary
Southside Community College
July 22, 2004

At a public meeting held at Southside Community College in Keysville, Virginia, on the evening of July 22, 2004, eight 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

Estate Tax. Capital gains treatment of timber sales is not enough incentive for long-term investment. A favorable estate tax is required as an incentive.

The death tax needs to be eliminated. It acts as a disincentive for landowners.

Real Estate Tax (2). Real Estate taxes are so high because of time needed for timber to produce income on the land. Income is really slow coming in from timber. A lot of time and management is invested to keep trees in good health.

Riparian Areas. Land taken out of production in riparian areas shouldn’t be taxed. Instead, landowners should be compensated for riparian areas.

Land-Use Taxation (2). Need to maintain and enhance the land-use taxation evaluations to promote timberland.

Land-use should be promoted to the counties on the benefits of maintaining forests. If landowners get land-use breaks, then the forestland should be well managed.

Capital Gains Tax. Need to lessen the tax burden on capital gains from timber sales. Capital gains should be spread out over several years.

Tax Incentives (2). Landowners need help from the state level with tax incentives. There should be incentives for timberland.

Conservation Incentives

RT Program (6). The state should fully fund cost-share programs like the Reforestation of Timberlands program. Forest industry pays tax on harvested products and the state is required to match that money but has only done that 3 times in the last 14 years.

Conservation Disincentives

Local Ordinances (4). Localities are enacting forestry laws that are becoming very restrictive. Localities should not be allowed to hinder landowner’s ability to harvest timber.

Local ordinances that require large buffers to be left on property lines, riparian areas, etc. hurt the small landowner because they take valuable timberland out of economic production.

Local ordinances take away from landowners without asking them. Landowners should be compensated for what they are loosing.

Counties should not be able to enact ordinances that hinder a landowner’s ability to practice forestry and sell timber.

Interference/Restrictions (2). Conservation easements should not be allowed to be broken by real estate agencies or anyone for that matter. Politics should not interfere with conservation easements.

Conservation easements should not restrict timber harvesting or farming. Landowners need to be educated on conservation easements to carefully select properly managed easements.

Education

Education on Forestry (4): The average citizen knows nothing about forestry and its benefits.

Adults and children need to be educated on the value of forests. Children have open minds who study whatever is presented to them and come up with good ideas. They need to receive information on forestry.

Educate children that forests are crops. Forests are a sustainable resource with a long production cycle.

Return nature to county schools in grades 3-5. Teach youth the importance of timberland and the proper forest land management. Cutting trees is not bad.

Schools need to teach forestry classes. Fourty (40) percent believe that cutting is a bad idea. This makes it hard to maintain timberland long-term.

Other Issues

Need to increase development of markets. Diminishing competition has left forests and landowners in a position of being unable to negotiate.

I am disturbed by the loss of forests to development.

Need to maintain and increase forest products industry in the state. Need to be competitive on the international level.

Clear cutting is not a good idea. Selective cutting is preferable and needs to be focused on.

More power plants should be built to use chips for fuel. Only one plant does so now.

The tobacco buyout is going to endanger large tracts of land from being developed. Need to prevent this with incentives.

Landowners should reach out to the Department of Forestry for help with timber sales and long-term management plans.