Forestland planning is vital for owners


ELIZABETHTOWN – Many woodland owners may not realize that their property could be working harder for them and their families, and it all starts with a plan prepared by a forester or other natural-resource professional.

“A woodland plan is customized to the property and interests of the landowner, providing a roadmap to help landowners achieve their short- and long-range goals, including leaving a legacy for their family,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

Woodland plans typically include lists of forestry professionals and service providers who can help implement the recommendations in the plan. The first step in developing a sound plan is to seek professional advice. Benefits of a plan include:

— Property tax savings: Woodland owners are eligible for deferment of property taxes through North Carolina’s forestry present-use-value program. To be eligible, the woodland must be 20 acres or more, actively engaged in the commercial growing of trees under sound management, and have a written forest management plan (also known as a woodland plan). For many landowners, the savings in first-year property taxes are more than enough to cover the cost of the plan.

— Cost-share assistance: Some forestry practices require up-front investments. Cost-share funding can lower these out-of-pocket expenses. A woodland plan is a requirement to be eligible for most government cost-share programs. Using these programs can nearly double the return on your forestry investment.

— Income tax savings: Your plan may include guidance on establishing your timber basis (used to determine taxable gains from the sale of timber), reforestation tax deductions and estate planning that can result in significant tax savings. Fees for professional assistance, including costs associated with preparation of woodland plans, are also deductible business expenses.

— Income generation: A woodland plan can help focus your financial resources so your woodland management activities and timber harvest practices are linked to your long-term vision for the property. The plan will provide guidance on when to harvest, methods

to harvest by, and strategies for regenerating your trees so you can increase the return on your investment.

— Improved wildlife habitat: Forestry and wildlife management are often compatible and even mutually beneficial. Woodland management activities such as tree planting, thinning and timber harvesting can be tailored to meet specific habitat requirements for game and non-game wildlife.

Landowners have several sources to turn to for assistance in developing woodland plans, including private consulting foresters and natural-resource professionals in both the public and private sectors. One option includes the N.C. Forest Service, an agency with a long and successful history of providing woodland plans to North Carolina landowners.

Contact your Bladen County Ranger to learn more about how the N.C. Forest Service can help. Information is also available online at http://ncforestservice.gov.

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