assessment of sustainability of our forests

Southern Forest Resource Assessment

led by the USDA Forest Service's Southern Region and Southern Research Station in collaboration with the USEPA, US Fish & Wildlife, TVA, and state forestry agencies of the Southern United States

Broad Category: Social/Economic Factors

Question Manager: James Granskog, USDA Forest Service, Southern Research Station

Question SOCIO-3: How do current policies, regulations, and laws affect forest resources and their management?

  1. Examine the implications of tax code (income, death, and property) on the structure and management of forests. Especially important is the influence of inheritance taxes on fragmentation of forests.
  2. Examine the impacts of cost-share programs that are designed to encourage forest management and forest cover.
  3. Examine effects of current use property tax valuation in keeping land in forest cover.
  4. Examine state and local regulations and laws that define landowner responsibilities in managing forests. This includes, local and state regulations, zoning, agricultural regulations, and environmental regulations, in addition to specific forest policies.
  5. Address linkages between the answer to this question and the impacts on terrestrial ecosystems.


Methods of analysis:

Federal Income tax.  A case study will examine how the federal income tax and proposed changes would affect forestland owners in the South.  The study will use computer spreadsheets developed to determine the effect of proposed tax incentives on federal tax receipts and returns to forest owners under representative management plans for major southern timber types (Greene 1998).  Tabular presentations will show results under current law and by proposed changes to the federal tax code.  (This analysis will address point a.)

Federal estate tax.  A survey of national woodland owners currently underway will provide information to better understand how the federal estate tax is affecting forestland owners.  The survey is patterned after a previous survey conducted in Mississippi in 1998 (Cushing et al).  Questions involve estate values, estate tax liabilities, and whether it was necessary to harvest timber or sell land to pay federal estate taxes.  Graphical and tabular presentations of results will indicate what fraction of forested estates are impacted by federal estate taxes.  (This analysis will address point a.)

Cost-Share Programs.  A recent compilation of forestry cost-share assistance programs (Haines) will be updated for states in the South.  The provisions of individual state programs, funding levels, and accomplishments will be examined.  Information and data will be synthesized in tabular and map presentations.  (This analysis will address point b.)

Current Use Property Valuation.  We will update a previous compilation and analysis of current use property tax laws (Hickman), the most common of the special property tax laws enacted to slow the rate of conversion of forestland.  Key forestry related provisions will be described and probable impacts of use value legislation will be discussed.  Tabular presentations will summarize key forestry provisions by state in the South.  (This analysis will address points a and c.)

State and Local Land Use Regulations.  A survey of local ordinances in the South, currently being conducted, will update a previous compilation of local ordinances completed in 1992 (Martus et al).  The interaction of local ordinances to state forest practice laws will be discussed and summarized.  Compilations of right-to-practice-forestry laws (Haines and Cleaves, Malmsheimer and Floyd) will be updated to reflect recent changes.  Tabular presentations will outline the major provisions of these laws and map presentations will show the number of local ordinances by state.  (This analysis will address point d.)

Data Sources:

Cited and other relevant literature

State agency reports and bulletins

Local government forestry ordinances


Tabular presentations of the effects of federal income and estate taxes on forestland owners

Tabular presentations of the provisions of forestry cost-share assistance programs

Tabular presentations of key forestry provisions of current use property tax laws

Map presentations of local ordinances by state

Tabular presentations of major provisions of state forest practice-related laws

Collaborators and Sources:

Steve Bullard, Mississippi State University

Brian Doherty, Southern Research Station

John Greene, Southern Research Station

Terry Haines, Southern Research Station

Harry Haney, Virginia Tech University

Links to other questions:  

Various aspects of forestry assistance programs also are addressed in:  Questions 1 and 4 under Social/Economic Factors; Question 2 under Timber Markets and Forest Management; and Question 2 under Watersheds, Aquatic/Riparian Ecosystems, and Forested Wetlands.

Unresolved Issues: 

Cited and Other Relevant Literature:

Cushing, T., S.H. Bullard, J.L. Greene, and T. Beauvais.  1999.  The effects of the federal estate tax on nonindustrial private landowners.  In: Proceedings of the 1998 Society of American Foresters National Convention.  Bethesda, MD: Society of American Foresters. SAF-99-01: 270-274.

Ellefson, P.V., A.S. Cheng, and R.J. Moulton.  1995.  Regulation of private forestry practices by state governments.  Station Bulletin 605-1995, Minnesota Agric. Exp. Stat., University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN.  225 p.

Greene, J.L.  1998.  The economic effect of federal income tax incentives in southern timber types.  In: Proceedings of the 1997 Society of American Foresters National Convention.  Bethesda, MD: Society of American Foresters.  SAF-98-02: 231-241.

Greene, J.L., and W.C. Siegel.  1994.  The status and impact of state and local regulation on private timber supply.  General Technical Report RM-255.  Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Forest and Range Experiment Station.  22 p.

Haines,T.  1995.  Federal and state forestry cost-share assistance programs: structure, accomplishments, and future outlook.  Research Paper SO-295.  New Orleans, LA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Forest Experiment Station.  18 p.

Haines, T., and D. Cleaves.  1995.  Southern state governments move to protect forest landowners.  Forest Farmer 54(6): 9-11.

Hickman, C.A.  1983.  Use valuation of forest lands in the United States.  International Real Estate Journal 4(1):63-69.

Malmsheimer, R.W., and D.W. Floyd.  1998.  The right to practice forestry: laws restricting nuisance suits and municipal ordinances.  Journal of Forestry  96(8): 27-32.

Martus, C.E., H.L. Haney, and W.C. Siegel.  1995.  Local forest regulatory ordinances: trends in the eastern United States.  Journal of Forestry 93(6): 27-31.



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 modified: 29-FEB-2000