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Viewing entries posted in March 2015

NSWOOA board warns of risks from woodlot 'conversion'

Posted by Andrew Kekacs on 31 March 2015

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'Conversion' of woodlots to non-forestry use may have serious consequences.

Directors of the Nova Scotia Woodlot Owners and Operators Association are concerned about reports that some logging contractors have been encouraging landowners to sign 'development agreements' to convert their woodlots to non-forestry use before a biomass harvest.

The practice is being used as a cover for contractors who want to ignore wildlife and watercourse regulations. The harvester gains a small amount of wood that should have been left standing in wildlife clumps or alongside streams, ponds or salt water.

For family forest owners, however, there are financial, environmental, and legal risks.

Wildlife and watercourse protections are critical, so removing the last few trees on a woodlot has serious implications for wildlife habitat and water quality.

At the same time, there are possible financial impacts from a change in use. By agreeing to convert a woodlot to a non-forestry use, the owner faces: 

   * Loss of future funding for silviculture, and the possible clawback of silviculture funding that was awarded in the previous 10 years.

   * Substantially higher property taxes when the lot no longer qualifies for the forest resource tax rate of 25 cents per acre.

   * Loss of eligibility for special income tax treatment that is available to owners of family forests. This allows capital gains that would otherwise be paid on the transfer of forestland from one generation to another to be deferred indefinitely, as long as a managed woodlot remains within the family.

If wildlife habitat and watercourse protection regulations are ignored, but landowners don't take steps to develop their property or use it for farming, they could even face legal recourse from the Department of Natural Resources. Enforcement officials have up to two years to file charges.

"We have been concerned to hear rumours of woodlots being harvested for biomass that are claimed to be 'converted' to other uses, so that wildlife clumps and watercourse regulations can be ignored," said Will Martin, president of NSWOOA. "This is worrying from an environmental health perspective, and also could have serious economic implications for the landowners."

NSWOOA directors advise landowners to consider the impact of their choices carefully. If you have questions about forestland conversion, call Andy Kekacs of the association staff at 1-855-NS-WOODS.

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