11: Forest Land Resources

11: Forest Land Resources

Assistance for Forest Owners

Woodlands are a valuable asset that if properly managed can provide harvestable timber, firewood, and agroforestry products. If the land you own includes woodlands, it pays to become informed about this asset. Following are agencies and organizations that are available to assist you.

Fact Sheet Overview

    Master Forest Owner (MFO) VolunteersVolunteers are trained by Cornell Dept. of Natural Resources and are available in nearly every county to provide answers about forest management questions. They are a great resource for the new forest owner and can offer practical advice on questions pertaining to woodlot management, timber harvesting and other topics.Find MFO at:
    NY Forest Owners Association (NYFOA)The NY Forest Owners Association promotes sustainable woodland practices and improved stewardship on privately owned woodlands.To become a member, contact NYFOA at 800-836-3566 or www.nyfoa.org
    NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Division of Lands and ForestsDEC Foresters will prepare Forest Management Plans that identify your woodland resources and provide management options.Contact the regional office that covers your county and request the assistance of a DEC Forester: www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4972.html
    DEC Saratoga Tree NurseryTree seedlings are available for small planting and reforestation projects. Generally, orders need to be placed by mid-March and will be shipped in April. Species available from the above sources include: conifers, hardwoods, and mixed packets for wildlife or other conservation purposes.Call 518- 581-1439 or visit: www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7127.html
    Many county Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offices also sell tree seedlings
    Cornell Forest ConnectForestConnect is an education and applied research program of Cornell University and Cornell Cooperative Extension. The goal of ForestConnect is to support the sustainable production of private woodlands in New York (and beyond) through the provision of educational assistance.http://cornellforestconnect.ning.com/

    Agroforestry and Maple Syrup Production

    Interested in knowing the potential of your woodlands for products other than timber and firewood? At the following sites you can explore the possibilities for producing maple syrup, cultivating ginseng, goldenseal, mushrooms, native plants or other forest crops as part of your farm operation:

    Forestland Tax Exemption – 480-a

    Privately owned forestland can be partially exempted from taxation but is liable for special levies/assessments under a state law called 480a. The exemption is limited to the lesser of either:

    1. 80% of the assessed value of eligible acreage or;
    2. The amount by which the assessed value exceeds $40 x the state equalization rate x number of acres

    To qualify for the exemption:

    • Requires an annual commitment to continued forest crop production for the next 10 years
    • Forests must be under a forest management plan approved by DEC
    • Must include at least 50 contiguous acres of forest land (roads, rights-of-ways, energy transmission corridors, etc. are included)
    • Must have vehicular access for forest management purposes
    • Any timber harvest within 3 years prior to application for certification under this program must have been conducted in accordance with sound forest management practices
    • Prescribed cutting may be required by DEC plan

    To Receive the Exemption:

    First Year:
    Complete Form RP-480, must be accompanied by a 10-year commitment form from DEC and a certificate of approval from the county clerk’s office– take these forms to your county/town assessor by the taxable status date (March 1).

    Subsequent Years:
    File a new copy of the 10-year commitment form with the assessor. If you fail to file the commitment form, the property is not eligible for the exemption.

    For more information on this program, contact a DEC Forester in your region: www.dec.ny.gov/lands

    Agricultural Assessment for Maple Production

    If you tap the maple trees on your forestland or lease your forestland to another maple producer, you may be able to qualify for an agricultural assessment.  This program does not require that a landowner develop or follow a written forest management plan and is less restrictive than 480-A. Please refer to the Agricultural Assessment section in Property Tax Exemption for Farmland (Fact Sheet #21) for details on this program. If a landowner qualifies for agricultural assessment on their open land, they can also include up to 50 acres of attached woodland. However, maple syrup production is the only use of forestland that will qualify a landowner to receive agricultural assessment on its own.

    Leasing forestland to a maple producer is an attractive option for landowners who would like to have their trees tapped but do not have the ability or desire to do the work themselves. Oftentimes the tax savings of qualifying for ag assessment is more lucrative than the lease fees provided by the producer. This requires a 5-year written contract with a maple producer who meets the minimum sales requirements for ag assessment.