State Senate passes forestry stewardship bill

Sen. Betty Little (Photo provided by the governor's office)

ALBANY — Legislation to create a state tax credit to encourage forestry stewardship and habitat conservation on private property passed the state Senate this week.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, who represents northeastern New York.

“Undeveloped privately owned forestlands have many benefits for wildlife and water quality,” Little said. “Growing property tax burdens and shifting of the assessment burden onto private lands creates pressure for development. This tax credit, funded through the state and not a shift to locals, would offer financial relief, increasing the likelihood that these tracts remain intact.”

Little said studies have documented increased fragmentation of the forested landscape and negative implications this has for wildlife, water management, biodiversity and the forest-based economy.

Senate bill S.138 would provide a tax credit for 25 percent of school, county and town taxes paid on a private property. The credit would be capped at $10,000 for eligible forest properties that have an approved plans for habitat conservation, forest stewardship or both.

A Habitat Conservation and Forestry Stewardship Program would be established within the state Department of Environmental Conservation, which would allow eligible properties to enroll and develop conservation plans for a period of not less than five years. Once enrolled, such properties could apply for the real property tax credit.

A landowner would need to apply to the DEC. An eligible property would be a tract of land of at least 25 contiguous acres that has been inspected by the DEC, a wildlife biologist certified by the Wildlife Society or a fisheries biologist certified by the American Fisheries Society.

A companion bill is sponsored by Assembly members Dan Stec, R-Queensbury, Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, and Carrie Woerner, D-Round Lake.

The New York League of Conservation Voters, Adirondack Council and New York Farm Bureau have issued memos in support of the legislation.