In support of the NWOA Affiliates and individual members, the Board of Directors deliberates, crafts and adopts position statements that relate to significant policies and conditions that impact private forestland owners. Our position statements are released through National Woodlands magazine. Below is a list of the current position statements which are subject to revision at any time. Click on the title to read the full position statement.
Forestry Extension and Service Forestry (2018)
The value of forestry Extension and service forestry is appreciated by landowners, especially those with a hands-on attitude toward managing their land. Through personal visits, workshops, field day presentations, and the development of educational materials such as fact sheets, videos and online resources, these front-line forestry professionals have averaged a $9 return for every $1 invested (2018 RREA Fact Sheet). Since its founding in 1983, the National Woodlands Owner Association (NWOA) has been an active and outspoken advocate of forestry Extension with the byline: “Forestry Education Beats Forest Regulation”.
NWOA however has witnessed a major decline in the number of Extension and service forestry professionals at the state and local levels due to attrition, declining budgets and shifting priorities. NWOA has also witnessed a shifting of responsibilities, which has impacted the number of Extension forestry professionals working with forest landowners. State level Extension forestry positions for example are now hired with additional responsibilities in teaching and research; this can limit their ability to get out into the field to work on forestry issues with stakeholders. In addition, university requirements for conducting innovative and scholarly work can impede traditional forest management Extension programming. These additional requirements have come at the most inopportune time as poor markets, climate change and forest health issues are having adverse effects on applied forest management.
Therefore, NWOA strongly supports full funding of Extension and state forestry agency requests at the national level. NWOA also encourages state affiliates to maintain regular contact with their state university Extension Directors and forestry deans, and state foresters because much of Extension funding is from state budgets, and the allocation is determined by administrators at those levels. The leadership of the landowner associations voting on these issues agree with these concerns and recommendations and have raised the issue of forestry education for landowners to the top 5 forestry issues in each of the last several years. Finally NWOA encourages all affiliate state landowner associations to work closely with Extension and state forestry agencies to document the value and impact of forest owner education.
The National Woodland Owners Association Advocates:
- Forestry Extension is one of the more successful governmental programs yet developed. NWOA is strongly in favor of strengthening the overall Extension program through increased funding at all levels of administration. NWOA also supports the federally funded Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) mission and goals of enhancing the impact of state forestry and natural resources Extension programming, and desires to see RREA appropriations more closely match the amounts authorized by Congress.
- Professional foresters employed by state forestry agencies often provide a first point-of-contact for resource managers interested in forest planning and management. NWOA believes this is a critical role for state agencies and encourages the development of more service forestry positions at the area/district and county levels for educational and field assistance opportunities.
Wildfire Fire Management (2018)
Wildfire knows no boundaries! Each year, fires that start in America’s wildland devastate lives and livelihoods – destroying natural resources, impacting watersheds, producing greenhouse gases (GHSs), destroying homes and communities, as well as creating health hazards to millions of Americans. In 2017 alone, 71,499 wildfires burned 10,016,086 acres with fire suppression cost exceeding $2.9 billion; the most expensive on record. Damage to natural resources and infrastructure as well as other economic impacts can be 2 to 30 times the cost of suppression.
Unnaturally large accumulations of vegetative fuel, sustained drought, insect infestations, and a changing climate are contributing to increased wildfire risk, intensity, spread, and resistance to control throughout many parts of the United States. The growth of communities adjacent to wildlands has placed homes closer to forest areas prone to burn, complicating fire control, after decades of fire suppression. Wildfires are now catastrophic, even generating their own weather, the “Firenado”.
The significant increase in the average acres burned and higher fire severity, has brought increased loss of life, property and recreational/tourism income to rural communities; higher fire suppression cost; dramatic impacts on public health; damage and loss of our natural resources (both on the ground and in the atmosphere); and more communities threatened and impacted by wildfires every year. Strategic management of wildland vegetation is essential.
Congress in March 2018 approved a budget that hopefully will head off the practice of “fire borrowing”. The suppression needs of the US Forest Service have risen from 13 percent of the agency’s budget in fiscal year 1991 to over 50 percent in the recent years. This alone is not adequate to achieve strategic management of America’s wildlands.
The National Woodland Owners Association Advocates:
- Active management of America’s forest and rangeland resources provides significant benefits while promoting development of healthy resilient landscapes, watersheds and communities. Fuels reduction via thinning, timber harvest, and post-harvest materials processing, prescribed fire, woody and herbaceous weed control thru chemicals and other means, grazing, and road maintenance have been used successfully to improve the health of forest and rangeland ecosystems.
- Science-based active forest management is essential to effective fire management. The only way to effectively control wildfires is to ensure that America’s forests are healthy and resilient. Increased timber harvesting, including increased removal of hazardous fuels thru innovations in biomass utilization, is one key to restoring America’s forestlands.
- Full implementation and funding of the policies and programs provided in the 2014 Farm Bill will expedite forest and watershed restoration activities, which will improve the resiliency of America’s forests and watersheds.
- The use of Good Neighbor Authority authorized in the 2014 Farm Bill will also help increase the pace and scale of essential restoration on federal lands.
- Finally, an aggressive market development program that encourages the use of renewable, sustainable wood products in our building and other industries will support and encourage sound resource utilization.
Timber Markets, Biomass and Fair Trade (2017)
NWOA believes strongly that healthy local timber markets are essential for the private woodland owners of America to be able to own and manage their forestland for multiple uses over the long term. Ideally, markets should be available to Americas woodland owners for a wide variety of commercial forest products including veneer logs, quality hardwood logs, softwood lumber logs, peeler logs, pallet and cross tie logs, pulpwood, OSB wood and bio-mass. Only through the availability of a wide range of markets can a woodland owner economically manage his woodland for the multiple uses of timber production, abundant wildlife, clean water and recreation. Because of this, NWOA supports whatever political actions are necessary to help maintain, support and insure that these markets remain available for the American woodland owner.
In general, markets for most commercial forest products are broadly available across the country but in certain regions some low grade markets have already been lost or are at risk of being lost for a variety of reasons. Some markets have been loss or are threatened by foreign competition and changing demand. While others are threatened by the political actions of miss guided but influential environmental groups. Domestic softwood lumber mills are threatened by subsidized or low cost softwood overseas lumber production and North Americas decorative hardwood plywood production is threatened by subsidized Chinese hardwood plywood. No new pulp and paper mills have been built in the United States in 30 years and many older mills have closed not only because there is less demand for white paper but because they can no longer compete with newer, high efficiency mills located in countries with low cost labor, low raw materials and fewer environmental restrictions. Recently America’s developing Biomass markets have also been threatened by environment groups that don’t like selling our wood to Europe for fuel and claim that burning wood is not carbon neutral.
NWOA is a strong advocate of free trade but recognizes that for free trade to be fair it should not be subsidized with tax breaks and other subsidies such as artificially low stumpage cost and relaxed environmental standards. NWOA therefore supports reasonable domestic political actions when necessary to insure that local markets for American grown logs are not loss due to un-fair trading practices. NWOA also recognizes that because America’s forests are renewable and verified as sustainable, that over the long term the burning of bio-mass as an energy source is carbon neutral and should be encouraged not only as a substitute for non-renewable fossil fuels but to provide important new markets for America’s private woodland owners.
Tax Policy (2015)
The National Woodland Owners Association (NWOA) feels strongly that private woodland owners have earned preferential income, estate and property tax treatment. The general public at large does not realize the huge economic and environmental contribution that privately owned woodlands, free of charge, contribute to our quality of life, environmental sustainability and positive economic impacts that managed private forests make to local, state, regional and national economies and ecosystems.
Privately owned forests and family forest businesses are an economic and environmental driver. Managed private forests produce clean water, clean air, their forests capture and store carbon dioxide, provide habitat for game, non-game and threatened and endangered species (both wildlife and botanical diversity), restore and maintain wetlands and the many benefits that wetlands provide. Economically, private forests are engines of economic and tax base development supporting the diverse employment of foresters, engineers, forest-based industries and their employees, loggers, residential and commercial builders who use forest products, local businesses servicing the forest products producers and industry, and the extremely large numbers of the public who enjoy outdoor recreational opportunities and spend large amounts to pursue outdoor based recreation, much of which is owed to and spent on privately owned forest acres.
General NWOA Tax Policy
NWOA strongly supports tax policies that promote forestland retention, improved forest management for economic and environmental/conservation purposes and higher after-tax income. Specific tax policies that NWOA believes are of highest priority are listed under income, estate and property tax discussion below. Other policies exist, but those below are key policies that need to be retained in any tax code revision.
Currently, preferential (lower tax rate) long-term capital gains treatment of net timber sale income is available to qualify sales by both investors and family businesses.
The first $10,000 of qualified reforestation expenses (per year on a property by property basis) can be immediately deducted as adjustments to income; in addition, amounts over $10,000 per year can be amortized over the 84 months following reforestation, again as adjustments to income.
Landowners can elect to exclude qualified cost-share payments from taxable income (Code Section 126). NWOA strongly supports these and other preferential income tax provisions.
Beginning 2018, every individual has a $11.2 million lifetime exclusion ($22.4 million for married couples); no estate and/or gift taxes (for gifts made during lifetime) are due on amounts up to the lifetime exclusion amounts. The lifetime exclusion under current policy is adjusted through an inflation adjustment annually.
Under current policy, the tax basis in capital assets, including standing timber, is stepped-up to fair market value (usually at date of death); heirs benefit by this provision since the stepped-up basis (plus or minus any adjustments) is not taxed when heirs subsequently sell the inherited timber, saving significant amounts of income tax. Basis must be documented, preferably at time of estate valuation, but definitely prior to selling and harvesting the timber. For casualty loss or business loss, the tax recovery is limited to fair market value or basis, whichever is less. NWOA strongly supports continued inflation adjustment of the lifetime exclusion and basis step-up. In the event that estate taxes are eliminated, retention of step-up is critical for future generations of forest owners.
NWOA recognizes that property taxes are a state and/or local issue and applauds efforts by some state and local governments who provide property tax relief for managed private forests under myriad policies across the United States. NWOA supports all of these policies, but puts highest priority on policies that value managed forest land in its current-use for long-term timber production, rather than taxing forest land for highest and best use (i. e. market value as residential, commercial development); taxing at market value is a proven disincentive to forest land retention and improved forest management and productivity.
Invasive Species and Forest Health (2014)
With the worldwide increase in trade in forest products and live animal and plant stock comes also an increase in unwanted and potentially very damaging pests to American woodlands. Best known because of their widespread devastation are the chestnut blight, gypsy moth, and Dutch elm disease. More recent imports are the emerald ash borer, which could all but eliminate ash species from America, and the thousand cankers disease which has the potential of devastating the black walnut industry. In addition aggressive understory species which create dense mats, (including Japanese stilt grass, cogon grass, and garlic mustard to name but a few), that can severely hinder natural generation of native tree species.
Responsibility for monitoring, inventorying and controlling the spread of invasive species is spread among several federal and state agencies. The primary responsibilities to protect and improve the health of forested landscapes, rural, and urban forests is with the Forest Health Protection programs of the State & Private Forestry Branch of the U.S. Forest Service with support of the Forest and Rangeland Research Stations. These include: forest health monitoring, technical assistance, pesticide use management and technology development. The USDA Animal Health & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has a primary role in import and export inspections, biotechnology, emergency response, and quarantines.
All 50 states have a variety of agencies and offices including agriculture research laboratories, plant inspection programs, public health programs and others. Information is often exchanged among all interested organizations at State Invasive Species Working Groups.
At the national level, NWOA is a member of the Council Against Forest Pests, and for many years a participant in the Center for Invasive Species Prevention.
- Increase funding for the control of destructive invasive insects and diseases at the national and state level.
- Maintain current cost share programs for eradication.
- Support and publicize forestry extension programs on how to recognize and control invasive species.