2017 Budget & Legislative Priorities
Forest Property Tax Reform
Private landowners hold 14.2 million acres of New York’s 19 million acres of total forest lands. The availability of forest resources is determined by management decisions made by over 200,000 owners.
The current forest tax policy is section 480A of the Real Property Tax Law, which has been in existence since 1974, has not been very successful. ESFPA has worked with DEC on developing a revised forest property tax proposal that we believe can make this tool a success, referred to as “480B,” and has asked NYS DEC to include additional components to benefit the landowner. The proposal streamlines administration and expands eligible lands for the tax assessment abatement.
Private Forest Stewardship
Private owners hold 14.2 million acres, 75% of the State’s total forest land. An estimated 200,000 family woodlot owners own at least 20 acres of forest land, totaling over 9 million acres or 50% of all of New York’s forest lands. Decisions that these owners make have significant consequences that cross ownership boundaries. While to date, the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) has benefited State land stewardship, invasive species eradication and urban forests, there has not been a dedicated program for the stewardship of privately owned forests. ESFPA supports a modest $500,000 new allocation within the EPF for private woodland Forest Stewardship.
Stakeholders have discussed extensively the role that community forests can have to contributing to support the forest economy and ecosystem values. As part of a community forest initiative ESFPA encourages the inclusion of: a county sustainable forest initiative; a community forest initiative to help municipalities purchase forest land; and, reimbursements to local governments for stewardship practices (including forest management plans) undertaken on community forests. ESFPA supports a $1.5 million allocation in the EPF to support community forests including planning, acquisition and stewardship cost share.
Forest Industry Workforce Development
The forestry and logging industry in New York produces over $600 million in total output throughout New York State. Also over 6,000 jobs (direct and induced) were created as a result of forestry and logging, most within the regions with the lowest levels of employment in the State. ESFPA’s affiliate, NYLT, is responsible for training over 450 Trained Certified Loggers per year. The average age of New York’s loggers is over 55. We have every indication that the demand for certified trained loggers is on the rise. ESFPA supports an appropriation of $300,000 in align with and supportive of NYLT efforts.
Wood Products Development Council
The Wood Products Development Council (WPDC) has been funded the past three fiscal years at $100,000.
ESFPA supports increasing that level of funding in the Executive Budget proposal of $250,000 for the WPDC. Funding at this level would allow the WPDC to continue its efforts plus, undertake a report on New York’s Forest economy, which has not been undertaken in over a decade. With this level of funding the WPDC could sponsor efforts to conduct public, land owner and industry outreach on new forest initiatives and on developing new markets for low grade biomass products.
We have used biomass energy, or "bioenergy"—the energy from plants and plant-derived materials—since people began burning wood to cook food and keep warm. Biomass in New York is used for both thermal fuel and power production. ESFPA urges the Governor and Legislature to ensure that biomass energy continues to play a role in our energy future. We will encourage the Governor and Legislature to support biomass in the following: recognizing that biomass energy is "carbon neutral;” biomass is a renewable energy source; and, biomass supports thousands of logging and related jobs as well as markets for low grade timber that benefits forest landowners.
State Support for the Forest Economy
New York State owns over 800,000 acres of forest lands with the potential to both stimulate wood sales in the State and to generate needed revenue for the State. ESFPA applauds the Governor for advancing the Young Forest Initiative on Wildlife Management Areas managed by DEC. In 2016, we encourage the Governor in 2016 to expand this program to the more than 750,000 acres of State Reforestation Areas. Presently, timber sales from State Reforestation Areas average less than less than 1% of their potential. We would support the Governor to adopt the goal of 5% in five years and 10% in ten years.
New York State agencies also procure a lot of wood products and yet there is no preference to encourage or support procurement from New York’s forest products producers. ESFPA encourages the Governor to adopt a procurement policy for State agencies that gives preference to procurement from New York producers.