Proposed rule changes with Dvn Tax: impute value on a doe



Dr. Emile DeVito sent me this as well, this is in front of the Division of Taxation. If you would like to help push this along, you need to put pressure on Brad Campbell with DEP and Marty McKew.

FAR HILLS. NJ 079~ 1
FAX 908-2~4-1189
October 31, 2003
Barry Fulmer
NJ Department of the Treasury
Division of Taxation
Regulatory Services Branch
PO Box 269
50 Barrack Street
Trenton,NJ 08695-0269
Fax (609) 989-0113
Sent via fax and fist class mail
Dear Mr. Fulmer,
Thank you for this opportunity for the New Jersey Conservation Foundation (NJCF), as
well as the additional organizations listed at the close this document, to comment on the
proposed rule changes of the Fam1land Assessment Act (FAA). Our comments here are
primarily in regard to those components of the FAA that deal with the farmland
assessment of woodlands, via forest commodities generated as the result of Woodland
Management Plans. We are all concerned about the documented, declining state of
natural resource values contained within and provided by New Jersey's forests. Here we
propose changes to the woodland assessment process that will help ensure that when
private forest lands receive a reduced tax assessment, they may be managed more
effectively and sustainably to enhance both available forest commodities and beneficial
forest services required by the people of New Jersey.
It is important to realize that with implementation of our suggestions:
1) The amount and type of land that could qualify for farmland assessment would not
change; 2) There would be no effect on the amount of property taxes collected on qualified
farmland properties.
As you are aware, the Fannland Assessment Act (FAA) was passed in 1963 in
recognition of the adverse impact that local property taxes were having on retention of
fannland and open space. The publicity campaign launched to pass the Act was called
Save Open Space in New Jersey. The Act initially permitted farmland to be assessed and taxed based on the agricultural productivity of the land, thereby making farming a more
economically viable activity and maintaining countless acres of open space in private
ownership. The FAA conferred a private benefit in reduced property taxes to realize a
public goal, preservation of open space. In 1986, in recognition of the value of privately
owned forests to the state, the act was amended to include woodland, such that a property
that contained a majority of wooded land and produced a certain value of "tree and forest
products" could qualify for farmland assessment. The rules which were applied to
qualifying woodland were much more strict than those that applied to farmland and
included development of a Woodland Management Plan as well as periodic inspections
by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NillEP) to ensure that the
plan was being followed.
Since 1986, the state has developed an even stronger open space retention program,
namely through Green Acres, Farmland and Historic Preservation, and Blue Acres Bond
Acts and passage of the Garden State Preservation Trust Act. In the Garden State
Preservation Trust Act, (N.J.S.A. 13:8C) the Legislature declared "that there is a growing
public recognition that the quality of life, economic prosperity, and environmental quality
in New Jersey are served by the protection and timely preservation of open space and
farmland" and .. ."that the preservation of the existing diversity of animal and plant
species is essential to sustaining both the environment and the economy of the Garden
State, and the conservation of adequate habitat for endangered, threatened, and other rare
species is necessary to preserve this biodiversity."
A recent amendment to the GSPT act in June of 2002 further states, "that the protection
and preservation of New Jersey's water resources, including the quality and quantity of
the State's limited water supply, is essential to the quality of life and the economic health
of the citizens of the State... [and preservation of] as much of those lands as possible shall
protect water resources and preserve adequate habitat and other environmentally sensitive
areas". This amendment affirms the important role that forests and open space
preservation play in water quality and quantity.
Unfortunately, the Farmland Assessment Act can create a disincentive, steering private
woodland owners to manage woodlands only for a narrowly interpreted view of what
constitutes "tree and forest products". Usually, forest management occurring on
farmland-assessed woodlands is simply the cutting of trees for certain wood products,
with little attention being paid to future regeneration of the forest. The primary factors
which have made these simple forestry practices unsustainable are:
1) super-abundant deer,
2) alien, invasive weeds, and
3) increases in insect pests and forest diseases.
In the last 15 years, these factors have made simple forest practices unsustainable in
much of New Jersey, since many of our forests are no longer "naturally-renewable."
Tree and forest products have been interpreted in the application of the rules to mean
cellulose-based commodities, while the non-commodity services of woodlands are not
interpreted as tree and forest products. It is well know that woodlands help filter
pollutants from the air, trap greenhouse gasses and store carbon. act as areas for
groundwater and aquifer recharge, mitigate flooding, are habitats for endangered and
threatened species, and provide important scenic amenities. We strongly believe that
landowners should have greater flexibility to actively manage for and invest in these
additional non-commodity public services provided by their woodlands. For example,
woodland owners should be able to qualify for Farmland Assessment if they proactively
manage and invest in endangered, threatened and rare species habitat, invest in improved
water quality and quantity, and invest in mitigating the ecological problems facing New
Jersey's woodlands, such as the increase of invasive, non-native plant species and the
lack of forest regeneration due to the overabundance of deer. Currently the private
benefit in reduced property taxes for qualified woodlands does not create an adequate
incentive to manage for these broader public interests.
In certain areas of the state the combination of deer overabundance, invasive species, and
forest pests makes forest regeneration and therefore sustainable forest management
impossible. In these areas many existing Woodland Management Plans cannot succeed
in meeting their stated objectives and in fact, many woodland management activities
carried out under an approved Woodland Management Plan have the potential to actually
degrade natural resources and severely impact forest health; even sustainable
management of traditional cellulose-based commodities is highly questionable. In the
New Jersey Forestry Association's Fal12002 New Jersey Woodlands newsletter, Rutgers
University researchers raised the question - are farmland assessment-driven management
activities inadvertently negatively impacting New Jersey's forest resources? In October
2002, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, The New Jersey Audubon Society, and The
Nature Conservancy of New Jersey sponsored a "state of the forest symposium". The
symposium brought together scientists, land managers, and foresters and focused on the
ecological problems facing the forests of Northern New Jersey. For more information, a
copy of the proceedings is available at
We propose the following role recommendations to deal with issues confronting New
Jersey's forest managers in this new century. All of the recommendations would be
revenue neutral. Adoption of these recommendations within the roles would not effect
the amount of property tax collected on woodland assessed properties. Adoption of these
recommendations would serve to create incentives to actively manage woodlands in more
flexible ways and proactively manage for non-commodity public services on private land.
Creating incentives for active management of specific non-commodity public services on
private land would help private landowners realize a wider public goal than the often
unsustainable production of firewood, pulp, and timber. Furthermore, all of our
recommendations would generate new jobs; have positive impact on smart growth; and
have a positive effect on the forest and agricultural industry. Our recommendations fall
into three categories;1) Woodland management plan criteria needs to address sustainability and
endangered and threatened species. All qualifying woodlands should continue to be
required to have a woodland management plan, but we would like to see the requirements
of the plan expanded to address: forest sustainability with regard to woody tree and shrub
regeneration; invasive, non native plant species; and resources of statewide concern such
as endangered and threatened species.
The NillEP Forest Service should develop new woodland management plan criteria that
require the plan to include information on the long-term effects of forest management
practices. The plans should address the loss of native understory shrubs and forest
regeneration and include the latest data available on potential and confirmed endangered
and threatened species habitat and other resources. The NillEP has a tremendous
amount of Geographic Information System and other data available that should be used in
the creation of Woodland Management Plans. Examples of such data include the NillEP
Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame species program Landscape
Project, the NillEP Natural Heritage Program's Natural Heritage Database, and mapping
of category one streams. If existing or potential endangered or threatened species habitat
or another resource of statewide significance is found on a woodland assessed property,
the Woodland Management Plan should address how management activities will affect
them. The NillEP Forest Service has already made GIS mapping data and computers
available at three field offices for foresters completing Woodland Management Plans.
2) Woodland enrolled in government conservation programs should qualify as
Actively Devoted - Conservation is explicitly recognized as important in the FAA. The
act states that a property is "actively devoted to agricultural and horticultural use" ...
"when devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications for payments or other
compensation pursuant to a soil conservation program under an agreement with an
agency of the federal government" NJSA 54:4-23.14. At the time the act was passed,
conservation programs available to farmers (and woodland owners) were strictly soil
conservation programs available thorough the Soil Conservation Service. This
recognition of the value of conservation of soil is extremely important and shows that
even when the FAA was written, the public recognized the value of resource conservation
on private land; the public recognized the benefit of non-commodity public services on
private lands.
Since the writing of FAA, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Soil Conservation
Service has changed its name and has become the USDA Natural Resource Conservation
Service (NRCS). There have also been numerous other programs created that are geared
toward resource conservation on private land and administered by different agencies of
federal and state government. The federal agencies include the NRCS, the USDA Forest
Service, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. At the state level, there is a new grant
program for private landowners called the Landowner Incentive Program, administered
through the NillEP Division of Fish and Wildlife Endangered and Nongame Species
Program (ENSP). Each of the various federal and state programs pays private
landowners for conservation practices on their land. Practices include, enhancement and creation of endangered species habitat. forest restoration plantings, and wetland
restoration and protection.
We strongly believe that the original intent of the FAA and subsequent changes in
government programs available to landowners as well as more recent constitutional
amendments and legislation mentioned above make a clear case that active conservation
of forests should also qualify as being "actively devoted to agricultural and horticultural
use". The FAA rules should allow 100% of any payments from these various programs
to count towards the income requirement.
3) Woodland where owners are investing in non-commodity public services should
qualify as Actively Devoted - If, based on an approved Woodland Management Plan, a
landowner chooses to invest in the non-commodity public services of their woodland
outside of a government program, this should qualify the woodland as being actively
devoted to agricultural and horticultural use and furthennore, the investment should
qualify as the income requirement. For example, if following a woodland management
plan, a woodland owner invests S500 for the first five acres and SO.50 for each additional
acre in conservation practices, this woodland should be considered actively devoted to
agricultural and horticultural use and the income requirement should be considered met
by this investment. Given severe budgetary constraints, government programs often do
not have enough funding for conservation programs. Conservation practices that would
otherwise meet the requirements for enrollment in a government program, but are not
awarded funding, should qualify.
The following are suggested rule changes in the N.J.A.C. 18:15 that would accommodate
our concerns and allow qualified woodland owners greater flexibility in management of
their forests. The original rule is in italic text; Our proposed additions are indicated in
underlined boldface italics; our proposed deletions to the rules are in {underlined
boldface italics and brackets/; our comments to proposed amendments are in plain text;
Department of Treasury, Division of Taxation proposed amendments are in underlined
!!.gll c s ;
Proposed amendment to N.J.A.C. 18:15-1
NJ.A.C. 18:15-1.1 WordS' and Phrases Defined
II Agricultural use" means land which is devoted to the production for sale and/or
active conservation of. plants and animals useful or benefICial to man, including,
but not limited to:
Active conservation is active investment in non-commodity public services on private
lands. Active conservation should be considered an "agricultural use", since historically
payments "under a soil conservation program" (N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.5) qualify land as
actively devoted to agricultural or horticultural use.-7 We recommend no changes
Tree and forest products (see definition below and N.J.A. C. 18:15-
2.7 for additional conditions),' or
When devoted to and meeting the requirements and qualifications
for payments or other compensation pursuant to a (~
conservation program (under an aR'reement with an a.eency of the
Federal Government]
N.J.S.A. 54:4-23.5 states "under a soil conservation program". The act clearly recognizes
the public benefit of conservation (investment in non commodity public services) on
private lands. When the act was passed, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation
Service (NRCS) was called the "Soil Conservation Service", and was the only federal
agency providing funding for private landowners to enact conservation practices on their
lands. Now, numerous programs exist to provide funding for conservation practices both
within the NRCS and other federal and state agencies.
"Active conservation" if investment in non-commod. ublic services or the:
mana1!ement (or the next 1!eneration o(trees. shrubs and herbaceous plants
which will rlller pOllution. absorb 1!reenhouse 1!asses, and provide for the maintenance 0 biolo . al divers. . enhancement and creation 0 endan ered
and threatened species habitat: restoration o( stream banks (or erosion control;
restoration o( wetlands and other hydroloxic processes; and the control of forest
insect pests and diseases.
"Tree and Forest Products" means both harvested cellulose-based commodities,
and non-harvested imorovements to native plant and animal habitat quality,
future re~enerative capaci!v of the forest, or overall forest health. Cellulose
based commoditin include traditional wood fiber products such as firewood,
pulp, and timber. Non-harvested imorovements include active landowner
investment to enhance or restore such orest conditions as: insu lCient
re~eneration of the next ~eneration of native woodv plants, strnsed or de~raded
habitat and hydrolo~ic comoonents, or disease or insect pest problems.
"Active conservation" is monetary investment in conservation activities defined in a
woodland management plan. We strongly believe that if a private benefit in reduced
property taxes is conferred to landowners in order to realize a public goal that they should
have the flexibility to be able to invest in the non-comrnodity public services of their
woodlands. Furthermore, it is clear that sustainable forest management is becoming
more difficult in New Jersey and that traditional forestry practices that are not
conservation oriented have the potential to degrade natural resources over time.
"Tree and forest products", which is currently not defined in the rules, should be defined
to include a modem understanding of all the commodity and non-commodity public
services provided by woodlands. This would make the definition more consistent withthe public benefits derived from woodlands as evidenced through the recent Garden State
Preservation Trust Act (N.J.S.A. 13:8C).
Proposed amendment to N.J.A.C. 18:15-2.7 and N.J.A.C. 18:15-2.10
We support the Division of Taxation's proposed amendments regarding
N.J.A.C. 18:15-2.7 and N.J.A.C. 18:15-2.10. We suggest making the
following additional amendments to N.J.A.C. 18:15-2.7 and N.J.A.C. 18:15-
18:15-2.7 (a) The owner of land which is devoted exclusively to the productionfor
sale of tree and forest products other than Christmas trees or the owner of
woodland which is not supportive and subordinate woodland shall annually
submit to the assessor, in addition to a completed and timely filed application for
farm/and msessment (Form FA -1), the following accompanying information:
We support the proposed changes.
2 We support no changes.
A completed woodland data form (Form WD-l), as prescribed by the
Director of the Division of Taxation. The information to be provided
by the landowner on such form shall include the following:
We support no change.
A statement as to the type and quantity of tree and
forest products sold; and/or the type and quantity
~f non-commodily pubic services managed.
If woodland landowners are going to get credit for investing in non-commodity public
services, they should state in the Form WD-l the type and quantity of services managed
iii. An indication of the amount of income received or
anticipated from the sale of tree and forest
products.. and/or an indication of the income
received under a conservation pro.eram; and/or
an indication of the amount of investment in
conservation and mana.eement of tree and forest
products; and
Income through federal or other grants or landowner investment in the active
management of non-commodity public services on private woodland should count toward
the income requirement.
We support no change. IV.
18:15-2.7 (b) and (c) We support the proposed changes.
18:15-2.10 (a) An owner of land subject to the additional conditions set forth in
N.J:A. C. 18: 15-2.7 shall submit a woodland management plan prepared in
accordance with the following criteria:
1.-3. We support no change.
A brief description of past activities that have had an effect on the
woodland community including but not limited to, wildfire, insect and
disease outbreab, timber sales, plantings, thinning, and weedingst
non-native invasive lant s ecies over-abundant deer and Ire
Numerous factors are contributing to declining forest health in New Jersey. Woodland
Management plans should recognize and describe the factors that are having an effect on
woodlands. (For more information on declining forest health, go to
www.niauduboniconservation). These changes can be accomplished as part of the
authority of the director of the Division of Taxation to require "other pertinent
information" to be included in the woodland management plan pursuant to NJSA 54:4-
A statement describing each defined forest stand [in some combination
on incorlJoratinK the following factors:
The number of acres,
The l!!!!!!t species composition including overstory
and understory;
General condition and quality; iii.
The structure including age classes, DBH classes,
and crown classes;
The overall site quality; and v.
The condition and species composition of
advanced regeneration {when applicable! .. {!!!!!!l
The stocking levels, growth rates and volumes,
and' ~
vii.A descriDtion of the ootential and actual
endan,eel'ed and thl'eatened soecies habitats
usin the NJDEP Divifion 0 FiS'h and WildJi e
Landscaoe Ol'oiect. the NmEP Natural Hel'ita,ee
Database, and local surveys.
an evaluation of deer inroad on tree and shrub
relleneration. and if necessarv. a Deer Reduction
Plan emohaswnll the need to harvest female
deer and includin measurable criteria or the
Plan's inlDact on woodv plant relleneration.
Each of these "statements" will guide landowners and foresters in developing modern
Woodland Management Plans that take into account the great pubic benefit derived from
private land. The NillEP Landscape Project, Natural Heritage Database, and local
endangered and threatened species habitat is publicly available information. These
changes also can be accomplished as part of the authority of the director of the Division
of Taxation to require "other pertinent information" to be included in the woodland
management plan pursuant to NJSA 54:4-23.3(c).
6 A description of the silvicultural prescriptions, management
recommendations, activities and practices specified and planned for
each forest stand, and an explanation of how these sequences of
treatment are integrated into the overall coordinated plan and time
frame to meet the stated management objectives {J and to Drovidefor
the sustainabili 0 the orest communi. The Commissioner Qf the
Department of Environmental Protection shall determine criteria
and indicators or orest sustainabU. . Additional an activo or
ractice shall ollow Best Mana ement Practices as develo ed b the
Commissioner 0 the De artment 0 Environmental Protection.
Such management recommendations and practices shall be prepared
for a period of time not less than 10 years and not more than 15 years.
Both Best Management Practices (BMPs) for management of Tree and Forest Products
and criteria and indicators for forest sustainability should be incorporated into Woodland
Management Plans. The NJDEP Commissioner can develop criteria and indicators and
BMPs using other states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut as a model. These
changes can be accomplished as part of the authority of the director of the Division of
Taxation to require "other pertinent information" to be included in the woodland
management plan pursuant to NJSA 54:4-23.3(c).
We support the proposed changes
A statement of average overall productivity capabilities of the
woodland includinll but not limited to: Ilrowth in timber volume,existin and otentiaJ endan ered and threatened s ecies habitat
and 1!roundwater rechar1!e capability.
8. fA maD! MaDS of the property shall be prepared to include, but not
necessarily be limited to the following:
The owner's name, address, and the date the map
was prepared;
An arrow designating the north direction,' ii.
A scale not smaller than 1:1320 nor larger than
1 :4000;
A legend defining the symbols appearing on the
The location of property lines; v.
An identification of forest stands which are keyed
to written prescriptions,.
A delineation of physical features such as roads,
streams, structures, etc...
An identification of soil types (A separate map
can be used for this purpose); IIIHl
A brief description or a map inset of the land for
the purpose of identifying the location of the
property in relation to the local area. This map
shall show adjacent land use includinll but not
limited to develooed land. land held ~v state,
countv and local llovernments and land held by
non-oro!its for conservation ourposes.
A map showinR the propertv suoenmposed on
the NmEP Division of Fish and Wildlife
EndanRered and NonRame Species ProRram Landscape Proiectj n
a maD showinR NJDEP Wetlands. xi.
a map showin.e potential .eroundwater recharRe
capabilitv usin.e GIS data from the NJDEP
Geolo.eical Survey.
o!!i.~ A CODV of tire Natural HentaRe Database search.
All of these changes would allow the Woodland Management Plan to reflect the broad
public benefits, both commodity based and non-commodity public services derived from
private woodlands. Again, these changes can be accomplished as part of the authority of
the director of the Division of Taxation to require "other pertinent infomlation" to be
included in the woodland management plan pursuant to NJSA 54:4-23.3(c).
10. An outline of potential land preservation options for woodland
Given the numerous state, county and municipal open space initiatives throughout the
state and the clear public desire to see as much open space preserved in New Jersey as
possible, we believe that Woodland Management Plans should include information on
pennanent options available to woodland owners including the donation and sale of fee
simple or conservation easements. These changes can also be accomplished as part of the
authority of the director of the Division of Taxation to require "other pertinent
information" to be included in the woodland management plan pursuant to NJSA 54:4-
Proposed amendment to N.J.A.C. 18:15-6 (a)
18: 15-6.1 (a) Land, five acres in area, shall be deemed to be actively devoted to
agricultural use when it is used for any of the purposes described in NJ:A. C. 18: 15-1.1
and 6.2 and:
When the amount of gross sales of agricultural or horticultural products
produced thereon, any payments received under a I~ conservation
program, fees received for breeding, raising or grazing any livestock, income
imputed to land used for grazing in the amount determined by the State
Farmland Evaluation Advisory Committee created pursuant to NJ.S.A.
54:423.20, and fees received for boarding, rehabilitating or training any
livestock where the land under the boarding, rehabilitating, or training
facilities is contiguous to land which otherwise qualifies for farmland
assessment, have averaged at least $500.00 per year on the first five acres,
$5.00 per acre per year on any additional acres of farmland other than
woodland and wetland, and $0.50 per acre per year on any additional acres
constituting woodland and wetland during the two-year period immediately
preceding the tax year in issue; or
2. in the case of qualifying wood/Qnd an investment in active conservation
practices Qf $500.00 per year on the first _five acres. and an investment in
active conservation practices of $0.50 per acre per year on any additional
acres if made in the non-comlllOdity public services provided ~v said
woodland. Conservation practices which qualify include: manaRement fornext generation of trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants; enhancement and
creation ~f endangered and threatened species habitat: restoration of
stream banks, wetland restoration and enhancement; control of forest pests
or disease; and an imputed value, determined bv the CommiS'sioner of the
Department ~f Environmental Protection, for reduction ~f over-abundant
deer via a Deer Reduction Plan with an emphasis on the harvest offemale
[2.] 3. We support no change
Investment in the non-commodity public values of woodlands is consistent with the
public benefits derived from woodlands as evidenced through the recent The Garden
State Preservation Trust Act (N.J.S.A. 13:8C) and more modern concept of forested
ecosystems. Investment should be directed for active conservation projects only.
Actively protecting and planting the next generation of native trees, shrubs, and
herbaceous plants will help provide habitat for native plants and animals, help to prevent
soil erosion, and provide for better groundwater recharge and filtration. Investment in
active conservation geared to Endangered and Threatened species habitat projects will
help meet the public objective of saving endangered and threatened species. Investment
in active restoration of eroded strearnbanks will help with energy absorption capacity of
streams, which could help mitigate downstrean1 flooding as well as help prevent soil
erosion. Active wetland restoration and enhancement, such as removing tile drains or
other hydrological barriers will help create additional wetland animal and plant habitat,
create areas for greater groundwater recharge, and help mitigate downstream flooding.
The Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection can impute value for
deer harvested solely to reduce overabundant herds. Existing deer checking programs
can also be easily modified to provide proof of following deer reduction plan.Thank you again for the opportunity to comment on the proposed rule changes of the
Farmland Assessment Act. We look forward to your response to our concerns and would
welcome the opportunity to meet with you to further discuss possible amendments to
N.J.A.C. 18:15.
Michele S. Byers, Executive Director, New Jersey Conservation Foundation
Dianne Brake, Presiden4 The Regional Planning Partnership
Bob Canace, Presiden4 Ridge and Valley Conservancy
Linda A. Colson, Director, Cape Accountability Civic Group
Ella Filippone, Executive Director, Passaic River Coalition
Thomas J. Gilmore, Executive Director, New Jersey Audubon Society
Jane Galetto, Presiden4 Citizens United to Protect the Maurice River and Its Tributaries
George Hawkins, Executive Director, Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association
Keith Hayes, President, Washington Township Land Trust
George Howard, Conservation Director, New Jersey Federation ofSportsrnen
Barbara Lawrence, Executive Director, New Jersey Future
Linda Mead, Executive Director, Delaware and Raritan Greenways
Carlton Montgomery, Executive Director, Pinelands Preservation Alliance
David Pringle, Campaign Director, NJ Environmental Federation
Julia Somers, Executive Director, Great Swamp Watershed Association
Jeff Tittel, Director, New Jersey Chapter of the Sierra Club
Fran Varacalli, Executive Director, South Branch Watershed Association
Margaret Waldock, Executive Director, Hunterdon Land Trust Alliance
Robert von Zumbusch, Trustee, Delaware and Raritan Canal Coalition