U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack made a major announcement March 30th strongly promoting wood as a green building material and recognizing multiple green building rating systems. According to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the USDA announcement was made during the International Year of Forests celebration in Washington, DC. The event was co-hosted by the American Forest Foundation, the National Association of State Foresters, and the USDA Forest Service.
According to a March 30th USDA press release Secretary Vilsack laid out a three-part plan addressing the Forest Service’s and USDA’s current green building practices. The strategy includes the following parts:
1. The U.S. Forest Service will preferentially select wood in new building construction while maintaining its commitment to certified green building standards. USDA will also make a commitment to using wood and other agricultural products as it fulfills President Obama’s executive order on Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance.
2. The Secretary has asked the U.S. Forest Service to examine ways to increase its already strong commitment to green building by reporting to him on ways to enhance the research and development being done around green building materials.
3. The U.S. Forest Service will actively look for opportunities to demonstrate the innovative use of wood as a green building material for all new structures of 10,000 square feet or more using recognized green building standards such as LEED, Green Globes or the National Green Building Standard.
The plan explicitly recognizes the Green Globes standard and the National Green Building Standard, both of which recognize multiple forest certification standards. Opening the door to other green building rating systems increases opportunities for third party certified wood to be used and recognized in green buildings.
“This is just the market signal we need to expand markets for sustainably grown wood from ATFS,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation.
Regardless of the number of acres, woodland owners need to make arrangements for their estates while they are living and while they are competent to do so. An extensive guide is now available from the US Forest Service specifically for family-owned forests.
Estate Planning for Forest Landowners:
What Will Become of Your Timberland?
2009. General Technical Report SRS-112
Available as a pdf download at http://www.srs.fs.usda.gov/pubs/gtr/gtr_srs112.pdf
Although the report is more geared to large working timber holdings, its comparison examples of the impact of federal estate tax on family assets with and without estate planning are chilling. In the scenario (chapter 19) with no estate plan estate taxes could equal nearly one-eighth of the original estate. In the second example a simple plan leaving the estate to the surviving spouse avoids immediate estate tax. But the subsequent demise of that spouse could incur an estate tax equal to nearly one-fourth of the original combined estate. The final scenario presents three strategies that could reduce the example family estate tax bill by nearly $1.5 million compared to the simple plan. (These hypothetical examples are based on a family forest estate with assets valued at $10 million.)
The planning guide states that on the national level nearly three-fifths of all forest land is privately owned. More than four-fifths of that land belongs to nonindustrial owners. It also finds that the typical nonindustrial private forest owner is 60 years old. The importance of and urgency for timely forest estate planning should by now be evident. If you are still thinking it’s somebody else’s problem, complete the thirteen question “estate planning readiness” quiz on page 5 to better understand where you are in the process.
According to the book’s abstract, its purpose is to provide quidelines and assistance to nonindustrial private forest owners and the legal, tax, financial, insurance and forestry professionals who serve them on the application of estate planning techniques to forest properties. The book presents a working knowledge of the federal estate and gift tax law as of September 30, 2008.