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Joint Report of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Board of Equalization and Assessment on the Forest Tax Laws (Sections 480 and 480A of the Real Property Tax Law)

Transmittal letter

December 8, 1993 

The Honorable Mario M. Cuomo, Governor Executive Chamber, 2nd Floor, Capitol 

The Honorable Ralph J. Marino, Majority Leader  NYS Senate, Rm. 330, Capitol 

The Honorable Saul Weprin, Speaker  NYS Assembly, Rm. 349, Capitol 


Pursuant to the Environmental Protection Act, which was enacted as Chapters 610 and 611 of the Laws of 1993, we are submitting this report on the implementation of New York's forest tax laws, together with our recommendations for improvement of this important program area. We respectfully urge your action on the recommendations we have developed. Our suggestions are based on an extensive review of the present status of exemptions granted under Sections 480 and 480-a of the Real Property Tax Law and analysis of the considerable comment received from interested parties during the hearing process.

As indicated in the report, there is a continuing need for some type of preferential property tax treatment of forest lands. However, a number of significant problems with the existing programs have been identified. Therefore, several major reforms are proposed herein. We believe that the proposals strike an appropriate balance between the many concerns and the often competing interests that have surfaced.

One of the central recommendations is a commitment of State resources to offset partially the fiscal burden these programs place on certain local governments. However, we urge that those resources be used only in areas where the need is greatest, and that safeguards be provided against excessive payments. Similarly, while we are proposing a broadening of the scope of program objectives, including some relaxation of timber management requirements, we have also proposed measures to safeguard the full range of forest resource values in accordance with sound forest stewardship principles. In keeping with other State efforts to maintain a viable multiple-use forest resource, we have proposed an additional incentive to encourage the provision of public access to enrolled lands, and the establishment of limits on the degree of structural development that may occur on lands enjoying publicly supported tax benefits.

We have also recommended consolidating Sections 480 and 480-a into a single forest tax program. This would solve a number of the current difficulties in administration and it would achieve a considerable improvement over the status quo without abandonment of the most important aspects of these longstanding programs.


Thomas C. Jorling, Commissioner
Department of Environmental Conservation

David Gaskell, Secretary
Board of Equalization and Assessment