The Empire State Forest Products Association, The Nature Conservancy and a bi-partisan group of state lawmakers as well as over 20 industry and conservation groups, have called on Governor Andrew Cuomo to fulfill his promise to reform the Forest Tax Abatement Program in the 2018 State Budget.
Coalition advocates say the existing law, the 480-a Timber Tax Law, is overly complicated, exacerbating the forest loss.
Seventy-five percent of New York’s forests that are privately held, and the 480 Tax Law offers private landowners tax deductions and benefits in exchange for sustainably managing the forests on their property. Under the existing laws, just 16 percent of eligible forest lands have been enrolled for property tax benefits.
“This longstanding property tax abatement program is in need of reform to protect New York’s forests from development and encourage sustainable forest management on private lands while also dramatically reducing the barriers to participation for private landowners,” a announcement from the coalition said.
“Reforming the law this year would provide an opportunity to modernize the program to ensure landowners receive incentives for the additional public benefits provided by their forests, including wildlife habitat and climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration.”
The coalition’s announcement also said they are seeking changes in the law would include tax relief for local governments who lose tax revenue on some privately owned forest land.
During his 2017 State of the State address, Governor Cuomo called for reform of the law, describing it as “overly complex”.
Members of the coalition include: The Nature Conservancy in New York; Senator Betty Little (R-Queensbury); Empire State Forest Products Association; New York Farm Bureau; Senator Joseph Griffo (R-Rome); Senator Tom O’Mara, Chair of the Senate Environmental Conservation Committee (R-Big Flats); Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Senator Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton); Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-Hudson); Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell); Assemblywoman Addie A.E. Jenne (D-Theresa); Assemblymember Pamela J. Hunter (D-Syracuse); Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay); The Business Council of New York State; Audubon New York; National Alliance of Forest Owners; American Forest Foundation; Earthjustice; and the Open Space Institute.
Photo: View of Dunham’s Bay and French Mountain from the “Van Hart” property in Fort Anne, courtesy Lake George Land Conservancy.