Your investment of time in finding a reputable licensed forester is a critical step in achieving your goals. A forester can help you determine your range of management options, find a responsible timber harvester, or logger, to cut your trees, develop a timber sale contract to protect your interests, and supervise the harvest to ensure it meets relevant regulations.
Selecting a forester to work with is like choosing any other professional. A good starting point is to ask friends and neighbors about their experiences with a licensed forester. You can ask for references and visit some or their past work. Some foresters have special skills or knowledge, like wildlife habitat management or invasive species control, which may match with your landowner objectives. It is important to work with someone who understands your goals and will work with you to achieve them, while protecting your interests.
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A performance bond can be issued at the start of the job as assurance that contract provisions will be met. Should the contract not be fulfilled, the landowner has the means to address the deficiencies, such as hiring a bull dozer to smooth ruts or grade the roads.
A harvest that removes all threes larger than a specified diameter (e.g., 12” and larger) is known as a diameter-limit cut. Diameter limit cuts often result in high grading, a harvest that removes the trees of commercial value, leaving small trees, as well as large ones of poor quality and of low-value species.
Since trees in many woodlots are the same age, cutting the biggest does not leave young ones to grow. Rather, this type of cutting take out the fastest growing trees, leaving the woods with slow growing, less vigorous trees of the same age as those removed. Diameter-limit cutting and high grade harvests liquidate the current value of the woods and limits its potential for future income. This type of cutting can also greatly reduce your future management options.
Although high grading produces the greatest volume of valuable timber in the first harvest, high grading does not necessary provide you with the most money. Ultimately, the price paid for the timber is dependent on many factors including how you sell it.
Yes! A good contract is a critical part of a successful job! A strong contract with the important elements that represents your interests will make sure your goals and legal obligations are met.
Common Elements of a Contract
It is common for landowners to wonder if the price being offered for their timber is fair. There are many factors which affect the value of your timber including its: species, size and quality. Therefore, it is very important to have an accurate estimate of the volume and the quality of the timber to make and informed decision about its value. Factors such as terrain, logging distance, and the presence of streams and wetlands also influence the difficulty of the job and will affect the price. How you sell your wood will also have a major influence on the money that you will receive on the money you receive. Generally there are two ways in which the price of your timber is determined: negotiated price and competitive bid.
A forester is a professional with a college level education and experience in a broad range of forest-related topics including forest and wildlife ecology, economics, legal issues and the growing and harvesting of forest products. Foresters in Massachusetts are required to hold a state license which is generally based on experience, training, and ongoing continuing education. There are two types of private foresters - Industrial and consulting - that can help you manage your woods and sell timber. Like an architect designing a building, a forester designs the harvest plan.
A timber harvester, or logger, is in the business of cutting down trees, cutting them into logs, removing the logs from the woods to the roadside and transporting the logs to the sawmill. They are usually in business independently or may be in the employment of a sawmill. Timber Harvesters in Massachusetts are required to hold a state license which is based on passing a written exam of relevant laws and must participate in ongoing continuing education. A licensed timber harvester is required on all harvests which have a cutting plan. Like a builder following the architect's design, a timber harvester implements the harvest plan.
The requirement to file a forest cutting plan is based on the amount of wood that is harvested on land that will stay in forest use. You are required to file a cutting plan if harvesting 25,000 board feet or 50 cords or a combination of the two that equal 25,000 board feet.
If a harvest is below the threshold and is within the jurisdiction of the MA Wetlands Protection Act, a landowner has the option of either working with the local conservation commission or filing a cutting plan.
The DCR Bureau of Forestry service forestry program can provide free technical assistance, education, and a walk-through consultation of your land. Service foresters regulate timber sales, as well as run the Ch. 61 tax program. Talking with a service forester is an excellent first step to determine your objectives, clarify your responsibilties, and learn about your options for managing your woods.
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The landowner is legally responsible for making sure the harvest meets all relevant local and state laws, including the Forest Cutting Practices Act, the Wetlands Protection Act, and the Endangered Species Act. You will need a clear understanding of pertinent laws or should work with someone representing your interests who does.
Deciding the Future of My Land
Donating land or interests in land, including conservation restrictions, can result in a reduction in property taxes as well as estate and federal income tax benefits. If you are interested in realizing a tax benefit as part of a conservation transaction, consult your tax advisor or attorney for guidance.
Yes. Specific property uses such as forest management, cutting firewood, building trails
and agricultural practices can be outlined in the conservation restriction (CR). Including these specific uses into a CR does not mean that you are obligated to do them, only that you reserve the right for yourself and all future owners to engage in these activities. Consider working with a land
trust or government agency that is familiar with forestry and agricultural issues.
The average age of a forest landowner in Massachusetts is over 60 years old. Many landowners have started to think about the future ownership and use of their land. Everyday, people like you make the decision to protect a portion or all of their property as a way of ensuring the land will remain the way they want it into the future. In 2005, it was estimated that there were 3,117 conservations restrictions on 82,124 acres in Massachusetts .
People protect land for many diverse reasons – to maintain the scenic character of their community, to protect wildlife habitat or historical structures, to provide recreational opportunities for future generations or simply for a love of the land.
Case Studies of landowners from across the state that have protected their land
All conservation organizations, public and private, have a unique mission for which they protect land to help achieve. Landowners often choose a conservation organization to work with based on shared values. Find a conservation organization whose mission most closely matches your goals and the conservation value of your land. However, don't let not knowing which specific conservation organization to call, prevent you from picking up the phone. Despite their different missions, all conservation organizations work closely together. If you contact a conservation organization that isn't a good fit, ask them to refer you to one that is a better match. This first step is to just call and find out your options. There are no obligations.
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Every landowner's needs and interests are different, and there are a range of land conservation tools that can be tailored to your individual circumstances. The best way to determine what is best for you, your family and your land is to talk with a representative from a land trust and find out your options.
Unless you take action to protect your land, the odds are strongly in favor of its eventual development. But you can take steps to protect your land for the good of your family and your community. Talking with your children about their plans and desires for the land and writing an estate plan with an accountant or lawyer are critical steps to making sure that you land remains as you intend and that your assets are allocated fairly.
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A conservation restriction (CR) is a legally binding covenant between a landowner and an organization such as a land trust or state agency. The CR protects the natural and scenic features of the property by restricting selected uses, such as development. A conservation restriction can cover all or part of a property. CR's are permanent and remain in effect when the land is sold or inherited. Conservation restrictions are applealing to some landowners because they are lasting, long-term agreements that can be crafted with a high degree of flexibility.
Land trusts are private, nonprofit, non-governmental conservation organizations that work with individuals and communities to protect land using a variety of estate planning and land protection tools.
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Chapter 61 Programs
Yes, but it must meet all of the standards for preparing a Ch. 61 Forest Management Plan. Contact your local service forester for information on the standards.
Yes, but the harvest must be guided by a state approved forest management plan.
Yes. Landowners may switch their land from enrollment under one chapter to enrollment under another chapter, without penalty. This is intended to allow flexibility in land management and to encourage landowners to keep their land undeveloped.
No. The amount of management is directed by your state approved management plan. There is no specified minimum amount of wood that needs to be harvested, however, there is the obligation to engage in active management.
Forest Tax Program (Ch. 61)
Assessed values under this law shall not exceed 25% of the fair market value. To calculate your tax bill under the Ch. 61B program, visit the Ch. 61B Calculator.
State tax laws in Massachusetts require that land be taxed at its full and fair market value. Most often this value is derived from residential development.
Land under Ch. 61 will be assessed on a per acre fee basis based on its current land use, i.e. growing trees. This is a fairer method as it is based on the actual use of the land. Each year the Farm Advisory Council, a state appointed committee, sets per acre rates for all agricultural products, including forest products.
Municipalities also have the option to tax land currently enrolled in one of the chapters at an open space rate rather than at a commercial rate, further reducing landowner property taxes to help support agriculture and forestry.
Towns may excercise their First Refusal Option or transfer this right to a qualified conservation organization. Towns have 120 days to notify the landowner that they are going to excercise this right. A town must complete the purchase within 90 days. A town may also excercise its First Refusal Option for 12 months from the time a landowner withdraws land from current use tax status and proposes development.
No. According to the new law, withdrawal from enrollment under any of the three chapters (Ch. 61, 61A or 61B) without a change in actual land use will not result in a rollback penalty if the use remains unchanged for five years. Since you have placed a conservation restriction on your land, it is clear that the land use will not change. You therefore would not be responsible for any penalties.
There is a committee known as the Farm Advisory Committee (FAC), a state appointed committee made up of representatives from various agricultural sectors. The FAC sets per acre assessments for various agricultural land uses (e.g., Vegetable, Tobacco, Sod and Nurseries, Dariy, Beef, Hay, and, now, Forestry). The FAC, working with the DCR Bureau of Forestry, developed a method for calculating a per acre assessment of Ch. 61 land based on the land's ability to grow trees. To see how the rates were calculated: Understanding Forestland Valuation for Ch. 61/Ch. 61A
The rates for FY 2009 are: $173/acre for land West of the Connecticut River and $108 for land East of the Connecticut River
To calculate your tax bill under the new assessment visit the: 61/61A Forestland Calculator.
Ch. 61B is the recreational land tax law. The purpose of Ch. 61B is to reduce the assessed value of land based on its use for open space or recreation. Ch. 61B is a passive management program, not requiring a forest management plan .
Ch. 61 forest management plans must be submitted to the appropriate DCR regional office by the end of the business day on June 30th. Approved Ch. 61 management plans and certificates must be filed with the assessors in the town(s) in which your land is located by October 1st.
This change will go into affect July 1st, 2008. Until that date, assements will remain under the current system.
Towns can choose to apply an open space rate to any or all of the chapter land programs. If your town adopts an open space rate for your chapter land program, then apply the open space rate. If your town does not have an open space rate for your chapter program and your town has a spit rate, then the commercial rate should be applied.
Pre-emptive cutting or pre-salvage of uninfested hemlock is not recommended. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is not likely to kill a tree within a year, giving you time to monitor the problem, evaluate your options and make a decision. Some trees which have been infected for several years and continue to survive and be merchantable. A tree’s ability to survive will depend on several factors including the site it is growing on and weather it is also infested with other pests such as the scale insects. It is recommended that you contact your local state service forester or professional licensed forester to help diagnose the problem and to plan a course of action.
Although there are treatment options in ornamental situations using dormant oils, they are not practical in a woodland setting. Contact a certfied arborist for information on treating yard trees. There are Silvicultural Options for Managing Forests Threatened by Hemlock Woolly Adelgid.
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid is an introduced pest, believed to be a native of Asia. White cottony sacs as the base of the needles are good evidence of an infestation. They are present throughout the year, but are most prominent in early spring. The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid migrates an estimated 10-20 miles a year, transported primarily by wind, birds and humans.
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid feeds by sucking sap from the young twigs, which retards or prevents tree growth causing needles to discolor from deep green to grayish green, and to drop prematurely. The loss of new shoots and needles seriously impairs tree health. Defoliation and tree death can occur within several years.
It is typically very difficult to sell a shade tree for several reasons: 1. there is a lot of risk in taking the tree down because of the amount of nearby houses, cars, power lines etc… 2. shade trees are at risk for having foreign objects in them, such as nails, that could damage a mill 3. one tree does not provide enough volume to make trucking cost feasible.
We recommend you work with a certified arborist to have the tree taken down. If you are interested in trying to sell it, consider contacting a portable sawmill operator or you local sawmill.