Community Agriculture Alliance; Forest agriculture and the importance of planning
March 10, 2016
Forest and ranch landowners wanting to actively manage their land for proper forest health and productivity should speak with a professional forester. If certain requirements are met, you may qualify for the Forest Agricultural Tax Program.
The Forest Ag program began in 1990 and allows certain forestlands similar tax valuation as that of traditional agricultural lands. There are four participants in this program: the landowner, the professional forester, the Colorado State Forest Service and the county assessor.
The landowner voluntarily participates in the program through specific activities for initial and continuing eligibility. Together with the landowner and forester, CSFS approves annual plans and inspects the property to determine if planned management activities are being implemented. The CSFS then recommends the property's eligibility to the county assessor. If accepted, the valuation and assessment is changed accordingly.
The purpose of the Forest Ag program is to encourage forest health and productivity through planning. This is why an integral part of the program is the requirement of a forest management plan and an annual work plan.
Another, perhaps even more important, purpose is to help keep forested lands as forested lands. According to the American Forest Foundation, it is families, not the federal government or private industry, that are the largest forest owners in the U.S. More than 284 million acres of forested lands are owned by 22 million families around the country. In Routt County, more than half the county's total area is held in private hands.
These owners have a significant impact on the health and productivity of our forest, mountain meadows and rangelands. Landscape functions do not know property lines. Locals and newcomers alike, forest owners and ranchers all have a stake and a responsibility to forest health and productivity. And this is not only for individual benefits and services, but also for the public at large, especially regarding water quality and quantity, a key function of forested landscapes at the headwaters of any watershed.
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If you are interested and think you might qualify for the Forest Ag program, you have time to inform yourself and take action. The forest management plan and other program forms must be submitted to your local CSFS office by Oct. 1 to be considered for the following tax year.
Contact your local Colorado State Forest Service office or your professional forester for more information on this program.
Carolina Manriquez is a forester with Colorado State Forest Service.
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