Woodland property assessment
The on-going appeal regarding property assessment by Jim Corum, KWOA past president, is based on a lack of constitutional appropriateness regarding the disparity in application of property assessment criteria. The current assessment has economic implications for landowners regarding forestland as an investment given the carrying cost of the tax burden. For example, as a percentage of net income, woodland owners pay 15.6 percent of net income compared to 3 percent for corn farmers.
KWOA has conducted lengthy discussions covering many aspects of the issue including what criteria distinguish personal use from agricultural use for timber properties and the potential impact on counties’ tax base, particularly in light of the significant decrease in tax revenues from mined minerals.
Rough estimates indicate that Kentucky timber resources are only about 25 percent as productive as they could be due to lack of management. The KWOA board voted to form a committee to define what constitutes sustainable management practices. The committee will attempt to compare differences in tax rates between properties that implement sustainable management plans and those that don’t.
Recent high-profile property tax assessments for lots slated for future development in Fayette County resulted in new criteria for agriculture exemptions. There is no similar criteria for tree farms. KWOA is developing a related position paper focused on retaining property tax exemptions for all 10+acre woodlands. The position paper supports greater rewards for woodlands with active management plans. The first effort will be to develop and agree on the criteria that will differentiate a “working forest” (actively farmed) from a personal use or “volunteer” forest.
U.S. Congressional Working Forest Caucus
U.S. House and Senate bipartisan caucuses were formed to pursue common legislative objectives and policies relating to responsible, active management of privately owned forests. No Kentucky congressional legislators are members of these caucuses.
KWOA sent letters with the UK Kentucky Forestry Economic Contribution Report 2016 to the state’s U.S. senators and representatives. Sample letters were sent to KWOA members to encourage them to contact their congressional legislators about joining a caucus.
Member presentation on timber harvest
Eric Shrader, woodland owner and KWOA member, made a presentation to the board regarding his experience with a 2015 timber harvest. He shared the challenges, lessons learned, and the result of his efforts to have a logging inspection report corrected to reflect what he considered to be violations of best management practices during the harvest. A summary of his presentation is on the KWOA Practices page at www.kwoa.net.
Guest presentation from Dendri Fund
Barbara Hurt, Dendri Fund Executive Director, explained that the Dendri Fund is an independent foundation that gives grants focused on working groups: wood, water and grains. Born out of Brown Forman, a family-owned business, the Fund invests in building relationships, creating dialogue and shared learning, and fueling innovative solutions bringing together diverse perspectives. The Fund is in the process of changing its policy from a transactional to transformative grant-making process.
McCauley Adams, with Dendri’s wood working group, spoke about its focus on the importance of wood products to Brown Forman and to the quality of life for Kentucky’s future generations. Members brought up possible topics of mutual interest such as sustainable management of forests, the importance of other species besides oak and barrel-making and the threats from invasives.
KWOF sponsors six programs during 2017 with $3,450 in funding
KWOF contributed sponsorships to the following entities during 2017:
Greenup County Conservation District – $400 – to help fund their annual Woods and Wildlife for Your Wallet program.
Leopold Conservation Award – $500 – honors Kentucky farmers, ranchers and other private landowners who voluntarily demonstrate outstanding stewardship and management of natural resources.
UK Forestry Student Scholarship – $1,000 – to an outstanding student enrolled in the University of Kentucky’s professional forestry degree program.
Woodland Owners Short Course – $650 – The WOSC is designed to assist Kentucky’s woodland owners in the care and management of their woodland resource.
UK Kentucky Forestry Leadership Program – $400 – for two competitive scholarships to the weeklong program at Jabez for students interested in natural resource management.
Salt River Watershed Project- $500 – managed through the Kentucky Waterways Alliance.
New Kentucky Division of Forestry Director outlines plans for agency
Recently appointed Director James Wright introduced himself and updated the board on agency activities and plans. Mr. Wright reported on staffing levels at the agency and his goal to streamline management personnel and increase field staff, including an urban forester position. There is real hope to have US Fish &Wildlife Service provide ongoing support on all enforcement issues. Kentucky foresters are being sent to other states on fires and management practices through new neighbor agreements with the US Forest Service. These changes are saving general fund dollars and looking in new directions to fund and promote sustainable forestry.
Pam Snyder, KDF Stewardship Branch Manager, reported that emerald ash borer has been found in six more counties. The division is re-gearing to roles that have an economic return. It is developing a cooperative agreement with NRCS on easements and timber stand improvement.
Emerald ash borer
The office of the Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture has agreed to hold a meeting to discuss issues and economics related to the emerald ash borer. The emerald ash borer (or EAB), a native of Asia, is a half inch long dark metallic green beetle that kills ash trees within three to five years after they become infested.
Former KWOA president Joe Ball has contacted several statewide agencies and associations regarding the EAB threat. He assured the board that forestry is a big issue for the current commissioner, Ryan Quarles. In discussions with the commissioner’s marketing staffer, Ball thinks that woodland owners who have experienced timber loss from EAB damage may qualify for disaster relief funds. The USDA Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Forest Restoration Program provides payments to eligible owners of rural nonindustrial private forest land to carry out emergency measures to restore forest health on land damaged by natural disaster events. Insect disease is mentioned as damage that is eligible for relief funds.
UK Forestry Extension is developing a fact sheet utilizing existing forest inventory data for ash trees and EAB infestations to project the economic impact of resultant stumpage, canopy and overall downstream loss from this invasive. (Ash trees comprise seven percent of forest species in Kentucky.) Joe Ball recommended that loss payment be tied to cleanup and active management of future timber.