Category Archives: Policy

Government and Industry Policy Discussion

Stop deforestation and restore forests to solve biodiversity and climate change crises

Andrew Deutz from The Nature Conservancy regarding the new United Nations report on biodiversity:

One of the cheapest, most readily available and cost-effective things that we can do to both solve the biodiversity crisis and the climate crisis is, first, stop deforestation and, second, restore forests and then, third, change our agricultural practices to increase soil carbon and soil health.

Source: What Can Be Done To Prevent Mass Extinctions

May 12, 2019 on NPR Weekend Edition Sunday

2019 Appalachian Regional Restoration Initiative Conference

Restoring Productive Forests on Mine Lands in Ohio

Jul 24-25 at the Pritchard Laughlin Civic Center in Cambridge, Ohio

This two-day Mined Land Restoration Conference features expert presentations in the science, policy and implementation of reforestation on active mining sites, abandoned mine lands and previously reclaimed land. The second day includes site visits to several projects in various stages of forestry reclamation.

2019 ARRI Conference Announcement

Early registration is $125 until June 30th.

For more information…

State Foresters concerned about Administration’s desire to reduce funding for state and private forestry programs

March 19, 2019 press release from the National Association of State Foresters

The president’s budget request for FY20 “would eliminate or cut all but one Forest Service State and Private Forestry program and reduce investments in state and family forests to just 2.5 percent of the overall Forest Service budget,” said Lisa Allen, NASF president and Missouri state forester.

Per the president’s budget request for FY20, funding for the Forest Stewardship program, the Forest Health Management Program on Cooperative Lands, and the State and Volunteer Fire Assistance programs would be cut by a combined $29.65 million from FY19 enacted levels. Funding for the Landscape Scale Restoration, Forest Legacy, and Urban and Community Forestry programs would be eliminated.

Kentucky Forest Sector Economic Contribution Report Available

A recent analysis of Kentucky’s forest and wood industries indicated an estimated direct economic contribution of $8.5 billion and direct employment of over 26,000 Kentuckians in 2018. The total economic contribution was estimated at $13.5 billion with more than 60,000 jobs.

Kentucky remains one of the leading producers of hardwood forest products in the south and exports wood products across the nation and the world. The University of Kentucky Department of Forestry and Natural Resources has been documenting the Kentucky forest sector’s economic contribution since 2012.

 

To learn more about the economic contribution of Kentucky’s forest and wood industries …

 

Sustainable Forestry Initiative helps legacy of African American Landowners

Following the Civil War properties passed down by African American families became “heirs’ property,” and lacked clear title of ownership. This resulted in many heirs selling off their interest in the properties or failing to appropriately mange forestlands to reach their full potential.    Read more…

The Sustainable Forestry Initiative has partnered on projects in Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia to help reverse this trend by providing sustainable forestry education, access to timber market opportunities, and legal support.

Board meeting highlights – 2/14/19

Woodland Assessment: The Kentucky Farm Bureau will participate in a meeting with the Revenue Cabinet in an effort to correct inequities in the current methods used to assess woodlands. Certification would be the proposed requirement to be used as evidence of management. The belief is that changes in assessment methods could be made within existing legislation and regulations, and only would require approval of the Revenue Cabinet. Cooperation by the Kentucky PVA Association would be important in obtaining approval for these changes. Plans are being made for a meeting to advance these efforts.

New KWOA Logo and apparel: A new logo has been approved.

2019 logo B&W

Apparel and other items with the KWOA logo can be purchased online through the Western Heritage Store.

Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy: KWOA is moving is taking steps to qualify for GOAP programs. Dr. Dan Kahl of UK Community Leadership and Development will facilitate the May 5, 2019 board meeting to help sort out the issues. That meeting will likely convene in Lexington.

Health Task Force: Don Girton indicated that the Heath Task Force has been re-vitalized. Dr. Ellen Crocker of UK is the point person. In addition, the efforts to obtain compensation for Emerald Ash Borer losses are still under way.

Political Issues: Senator Rand Paul’s proposed amendments to the Natural Resources Management Act (S.47) would authorize the construction of recreational facilities on federal government waterways feeding into Lake Cumberland, and the sale of land along U.S. 27 in the Daniel Boone National Forest for the purpose of development.

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service: Jared Calvert indicated that $15MM in EQUIP funding has been approved for 2019, $1.5MM of which is allocated to forestry.

Kentucky Forest Industries Association: The American Tree Farm System National Leadership Conference will be held in Louisville February 26-28.

Kentucky Division of Forestry: There will be a tree planting event in Whitley County March 28-30.

FULL BOARD MEETING MINUTES

Next board meetings:

March 27 at the annual meeting

May 9 in Lexington; details forthcoming

August 8, 2019

November 14, 2019

California fires spark debate over forest management

Can most of the blame for California’s devastating wildfires be attributed to the state’s forest management? Fire scientists recognize a larger effect from climate change in promoting abnormally dry conditions and dead trees. The first nine months of 2018 have been the fourth-warmest on record for California. This past summer was the second-hottest on record in the state. An additional factor is the encroachment of urban development on wildlands.

Most of California’s forests are under federal or private control. US agriculture and interior secretaries Perdue and Zinke are pressing for farm bill authorizations in the current House version of the bill (Forestry Title of H.R. 2) which includes amendments mandating a controversial expansion of “categorical exclusions,” which allow land managers to fast track forest management projects and largely bypass environmental review. Read the transcript for a National Public Radio interview with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who oversees the U.S. Forest Service.

Leading experts in forest ecology management think the Forest Title in the House version of the Farm Bill  does not properly address science-based prevention programs such as controlled burning and fuel reduction in wildland urban interface areas as well as the critical role of climate change. Instead it focuses on accelerated commercial logging and road building which generally exacerbate fire risk. The House bill’s forestry provisions also expand post-fire “salvage” logging which they contend contributes to ecological recovery in the disturbed area. New “categorical exclusions” limit input from state wildlife agencies among others. Read more 

Greg Aplet, science director for the Wilderness Society in Denver, takes the view of many wildfire behavior scientists: If the goal is to protect communities and lives from fire, the emphasis first needs to be on clearing out those dried out fine fuels, the understory, from the forest floor, not the green live trees. “The Forest Service often lacks the personnel and the resources to do the types of landscape-scale restoration work that needs to be done,” says Nick Smith, executive director of Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities, a non-profit forestry group. Read more

According to Dr. Chad Hanson, director and principal ecologist for the California-based John Muir Project, logging, including many projects deceptively promoted as forest “thinning,” removes fire-resistant trees, reduces the cooling shade of the forest canopy and leaves behind highly combustible twigs and branches. Read more:… The California fires took place in some of the most heavily logged areas of the Sierra Nevada range.

A study by Hanson and others of whether increased forest protection corresponds to higher severity in frequent-fire forests of the western US found that forests with higher levels of protection had lower severity values even though they are generally identified as having the highest overall levels of biomass and fuel loading. Some of these researchers have hypothesized that as forests mature, the overstory canopy results in cooling shade that allows surface fuels to stay moister longer into fire season. This effect may also lead to a reduction in pyrogenic native shrubs and other understory vegetation that can carry fire, due to insufficient sunlight reaching the understory.

In general, their findings—that forests with the highest levels of protection from logging tend to burn least severely—suggest a need for managers and policymakers to rethink current forest and fire management direction, particularly proposals that seek to weaken forest protections or suspend environmental laws ostensibly to facilitate a more extensive and industrial forest–fire management regime.

November 15 board meeting highlights for cooperators

Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy

KWOA participated in a September 19th meeting with this organization which coordinates the distribution of funds received by the state as a result of the tobacco settlement. There appears to be an opportunity for KWOA to initiate innovative programs that would be expected to result in more Kentucky landowners actively managing their woodlands. These might include education and/or demonstration programs administrated by others.

Health Task Force

KWOA and others are in the process of gathering data to submit to the Farm Service Agency for approval of an application for assistance to woodland owners for Emerald Ash Borer losses. There is also renewed interest in the Health Care Task Force which KWOA was instrumental in establishing. A meeting to explore starting a new task force is scheduled for December 5 at the UK Extension.

Kentucky Farm Bureau

Sections of the policy book are being changed to better reflect the role of forestry in the organization. The Forestry Commodity Session at the KFB annual meeting will be held November 29. Forestry will be included in Harlan County educational programs. KFB is encouraging the formation of a new program called “Ag in the Mountains,” which will include forestry. Input on what might be included in these programs is welcome.

UK Forestry Extension

Segments from the extension’s fall weekly radio program “From the WoodsKY” [https://forestry.ca.uky.edu/fromthewoodsky] are archived for those who would like to listen to them.

Topics include Christmas trees, herpetology, Robinson Forest, bats, urban forest initiative, fall colors, martial eagles, black bears, green forests work, forest health and what is forestry?

 

 

The extension is also launching a webinar series – Getting to Know Your Woodlands: A Primer for Beginners. The 4-5 two hour webinars will be held at county extension offices and other meeting spaces. Topics will include the southern forest and your woodland, getting to know your woodlands, managing your woodlands, identifying and managing woodland threats and wildlife and woodlands. The webinars will run on Thursdays from 7-9P (EST) on February 21, February 28, March 7, March 7 and an option field tour or extra local session on March 21.

The extension has produced a new video of its student Kentucky Leadership Program which will be run at the KWOA annual meeting.

Kentucky Tree Farm System

The Kentucky Tree Farm White Oak Initiative will hold a December meeting at Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort. The American Tree Farm System’s national meeting will convene February 26-28, 2019 in Louisville.

Sustainability of White Oak Timber – an April 2017 conference – was specifically for the industries dependent upon white oak including forest industries, industries using white oak casks, and organizations and agencies associated with these industries. https://forestry.ca.uky.edu/white_oak

USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service  Jared Calvert said the allocation for EQUIP has not been determined. Woody residue treatment for ash has been recommended for EQUIP funding at $700 per acre. White oak promotion, rare and declining habitat and prescribed burning are also factors in EQUIP rankings.

Update on Timber Property Valuation reform efforts

Jim Corum, a KWOA past president, updated the KWOA board at its November 2018 meeting on his fifteen-year effort to bring the tax valuation of Kentucky woodland properties in line with applicable legislation and case law. Don Miniard, Kentucky Farm Bureau, indicated that at the KFB committee level  has agreed to support the idea of preferable tax treatment for certified woodlands.

At the February 2019 KWOA board meeting the Kentucky Farm Bureau reported that it will participate in a meeting with the Revenue Cabinet in an effort to correct inequities in the current methods used to assess woodlands. Certification would be the proposed requirement to be used as evidence of management. The belief is that changes in assessment methods could be made within existing legislation and regulations, and only would require approval of the Revenue Cabinet. Cooperation by the Kentucky PVA Association would be important in obtaining approval for these changes. Plans are being made for a meeting to advance these efforts. Dr. Jeff Springer, UK Forestry, suggested running a pilot assessment in selected counties.

For further information see the Corum’s fund-raising appeal on the GoFundMe website.

For background on the timber property valuation issue see the Special Edition Fall 2012 and Special Property Tax Assessment (August 2013) KWOA newsletters. Those efforts include presentations, discussions, appeals and plaintiffs with the Kentucky Department of Revenue – 2011 and 2012, Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals – 2014, Kentucky Legislature and Harlan County Circuit Court – 2015.

Hearing before Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals – 2014

Corum challenged the assessment of the family tree farm on November 18, 2014 at the Kentucky Board of Tax Appeals. The Appellant Brief challenges the Harlan County property valuation administrator’s agricultural use assessment of the Corum tree farm. The Harlan County PVA assessed the tree farm on the basis of pasture rents, not income from timber. According to the appellant, this results in two errors:  First, there is no rational relationship between the income generated by pasture land and the income generated by a tree farm. Second, pasture land yields an annual crop at a minimum whereas a tree farm operates on a 70-year cycle.

Therefore, instead of a pasture rent basis, cash rents from tree farms should be computed on the basis of a generally accepted forest industry standard measurement (the Faustmann method) which is used within the industry to value the annual growth of timber. The UK College of Agriculture has developed and published the average annual growth values of an acre of woodland based upon current market prices collected and published by the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

By the above method the tree farm’s annual growth would be multiplied by the current market price for such timber less the amount payable to the typical logger. The resulting cash rent amount (stumpage value) would be subjected to the same capitalization rate (9.2%) used for cropland and pastureland as well as a present value multiplier (.0021) to equalize the 70-year crop cycle of trees with the annual crop cycles of cropland and of pastureland.

Based on the above findings, the appellant brief requests rulings from the Board of Tax Appeals that assess the Corum property applying a timber-based process that yields an accurate agricultural use value.

Brief of Appellee, Harlan County Property Valuation Administrator, in response to the Corum appeal

Currently, forestland is classified as agricultural property. If the state provided a lower rate for forestland, it would have to also apply that lower rate to all agricultural property. The state cannot constitutionally mandate a particular valuation method. Application of the prevailing class cash rental is divided by rate of return to arrive at an assessment that is fair and “equally burdensome” to all farmers. The constitution mandates that all property shall be assessed for taxation at its fair market value. It also allows for the assessment of agricultural or horticultural land according to its value for agricultural or horticultural use. This value is based upon the income-producing capability and comparable sales of farmland purchased for farm purposes.

The brief also noted other “weaknesses” with the appellant’s argument including:

  • Assessment of properties based upon their income only is inappropriate.
  • Most tree farms conduct periodic harvests, not just one every 70 years.
  • Most woodland properties have saleable timber at the time of purchase.
  • Woodlands are used for agricultural purposes other than harvesting timber.

The appellee brief recommends that the Corums lobby the legislature to address the desire for timberland to be exempt or nearly exempt from ad valorem property taxation. It recommends denial of the appeal and sets a fair cash value for the subject property based on the above findings.

At the November2018  board meeting Corum again referenced a 1984 Kentucky Supreme Court case Doland v. Land that concluded the current PVA method made no adjustments for the characteristics of individual farms and therefore did not result in an equal tax burden:

“The method employed by the Fayette County PVA in assessing agricultural lands did not achieve the result required by Section 172A of the Kentucky Constitution in that it did not result in an equal tax burden.”

“There is a violation of constitutional rights if the effective tax rate is not uniform and thereby results in an unequal tax burden. Any method of assessment which fails to follow the constitutional directions and accordingly does not produce an assessed value based on agricultural use of each individual parcel, violates the constitution.”

Corum’s on-going appeal regarding property assessment is based on a lack of constitutional appropriateness regarding the disparity in application of property assessment criteria. For example, as a percentage of net income, woodland owners pay 15.6 percent of net income compared to 3 percent for corn farmers. The current assessment has economic implications for landowners regarding forestland as an investment given the carrying cost of the tax burden.

EPA, USDA and DOE will encourage the use of biomass as an energy solution

In a letter to Congress EPA, USDA, and DOE will encourage the use of biomass as an energy solution.

Labeling wood burning as environmentally friendly is at odds with environmental groups and some scientists, who say that the process releases all of the carbon dioxide that the trees had previously removed from the atmosphere and may endanger forest biodiversity.

To read more….