One of the obvious goals of this newsletter is to educate the landowner concerning forest and land management issues. One aspect of this education is to keep the landowner informed about various topics and issues that might affect their ability to manage their lands. Listed below are a few of the current issues that should be of interest to the forest landowner.
Landowners invest a significant amount of time and money
in their land asset.
It is imperative that they
keep abreast of
local, state, and regional issues
that may affect their
land management options.
House Bill H.0343 - This bill is titled Public Recreational Use of Enrolled Current Use Lands and was introduced in the Vermont House of Representatives in late February of 2005. The bill proposes to require land enrolled in current use to be made available for public recreational use.
Note: Obviously landowners presently enrolled in the current use program need to pay particular attention to this bill. This bill would require all lands enrolled in the UVA program to be accessible to the public for non-motorized recreational use, including hunting, training hunting dogs, mountain bike riding, horseback riding, etc.
UVA Rules Revisions - The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation recently posted revisions to the rules of the UVA (current use) program The rule changes appear to be relatively minor, and are undoubtedly being proposed in order to allow for better enforcement. Historically, the department has had trouble enforcing the rules of the program due to some of the relatively vague language in the rules.
Note: It is currently the opinion of the Department that the revisions are not "significant" and, therefore, current enrollees will not be allowed to withdraw their enrolled lands without incurring the withdrawal penalty. This opinion is a significant departure from historical actions by the Department where in the past when rule changes were implemented, current enrollees were allowed to withdraw their enrolled land and were exempt from the withdrawal penalty. The rule changes can be found at http:///www.vtfpr.org/resource/for_forres_useapp.cfm. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for Use Value Appraisal Program Revised Manual, March 14, 2005 (changes on pages 20-39), Part 1. Hard copies can be obtained from Russ Barrett, Washington County Forester, at 802-476-0172 or
House Bill H.0334 - This bill is titled Discontinuance of Ancient Roads and was introduced in the Vermont House of Representatives in late February of 2005. The bill proposes to discontinue all public right-of-ways or highways, including so-called county roads, if they were not depicted on the most recent municipal highway map as of January 1, 2005.
Note: If access to land is over an old road or trail, the landowner needs to insure that the route used to gain access is properly depicted on the town highway map by visiting the town office and reviewing the town highway map.
House Bill H.0049 - This bill is titled The Climate Crisis and Opportunity Act and was introduced in the Vermont House of Representatives in January 2005. The bill proposes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2010. One of the stipulations of the bill is to evaluate and make recommendations of the potential of using agriculture and forestry practices to increase carbon sequestration.
Note: If this bill is enacted, it may be either a benefit or a detriment to forest management. The benefit is the potential of creating a local market for carbon sequestration that forest landowners may take advantage of. The detriment is the potential of strict harvest regulations in order to improve or maintain sequestration capacity.
The current status of all introduced Vermont bills can be found at http://www.leg.state.vt.us/database/status/status.cfm.
Current Use Forestland Assessments - It would appear that the current use board will be increasing the assessment value on managed and unmanaged forestland. This assessment is based on the upward trend of timber values over the past few years.
House Bill 560 - This bill streamlines the permitting process by use of the intent to cut form. The purpose of this bill is to allow timber harvesting operations where BMPs are implemented to receive a "permit by rule" for alteration of terrain from DES, and it reduces the number of agencies that deal with violations over alteration of terrain from two to one.
Note: This house bill does not alter the intent to cut form and looks to be advantageous to forest landowners.
Timber Harvesting in Shoreland Zones - The State of Maine is in the rulemaking process of developing statewide standards for timber harvesting in shoreland zones.
Note: The draft standards can be found at: http://www.state.me.us/doc/mfs/mfshome.
Massachusetts Endangered Species Act - The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board has proposed revisions to Massachusetts Endangered Species Act regulations (321 CMR 10.00).
Note: Massachusetts forestland owners need to become intimately familiar with these proposed revisions. A number of the revisions have the potential for significant impact on a landowners' ability to manage his/her land. In addition to new "on the ground" rules, landowners may have their lands classified as "Priority Habitat" or "Significant Habitat" without their knowledge and be subject to additional rules (and fines for violations) that accompany these special classifications. Landowners are encourage to contact their NEFCo forester to learn more about these revisions.
Forest Reserves - An initiative by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs has proposed the creation of 75,000 acres of "Forest Reserves" comprising of multiple 15,000 acre public forest parcels where no active forest management would occur, except for cutting planted red pine and Norway spruce plantations. In addition, large acreage parcels that are peripheral to reserve areas may have forest management restrictions imposed on their owners, many which are private, on the basis of creating "buffers" to the core "Forest Reserve" parcels.