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Assistance for Forest Owners

Woodlands are a valuable asset that if properly managed can provide harvestable timber, firewood, and agroforestry products.  If the land you own includes woodlands, it pays to become informed about this asset.

Following are agencies and organizations that are available to assist you:

Master Forest Owner Volunteers – Volunteers are trained by Cornell Dept. of Natural Resources and are available in nearly every county to provide answers about forest management questions.  They are a great resource for the new forest owner and can offer practical advice on questions pertaining to woodlot management, timber harvesting and other topics.  Find a MFO at the following website: www.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/mfo

NY Forest Owners Association (NYFOA) – The NY Forest Owners Association promotes sustainable woodland practices and improved stewardship on privately owned woodlands.  To become a member, contact NYFOA at 800-836-3566 or website: www.nyfoa.org

Cornell Cooperative Extension’s ForestConnect Program – Rural land owners, farmers, maple producers and others with woodlot interests can access considerable breadth and depth through the website www.ForestConnect.info Some of the resources on the ForestConnect site include:

  • Publications on topics that range from agroforestry and silvopasture, to selecting a forester, to knowing the value of your trees
  • The webinar series provides free monthly connections to experts on topics from vernal pools to control of invasive species to timber management.  Webinars are recorded and archived for subsequent viewing.
  • “Got Questions” provides access to an on-line moderated chat forum where owners can ask and answer questions, together with input from extension educators around the state.
  • Links to other resources such as calendar of events, who can help in your community, links to related websites, an e-list subscription for updates, and summaries of recent project activities.

NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation Division of Lands and Forests – www.dec.ny.gov/lands/4972.html – contact the regional office that covers your county and request the assistance of a DEC Forester – DEC foresters will prepare Forest Management Plans that identify your woodland resources and provide management options.

Tree Seedlings – tree seedlings are available for small planting and reforestation projects from the following sources:

  • DEC Saratoga Tree Nursery – www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7127.html or call 518-587-1120.
  • County Soil and Water Districts – many county SWCD also sell tree seedlings.

Generally orders via the above sources need to be placed by mid-March and will be shipped in April.

Species available from the above sources include:  conifers, hardwoods, mixed packets for wildlife or other conservation purposes.

Agroforestry and Maple Syrup Production

Interested in knowing the potential of your woodlands for products other than timber and firewood?  At the following sites you can explore the possibilities for producing maple syrup, grazing livestock, cultivating ginseng, goldenseal, mushrooms, native plants or other forest crops as part of your farm operation:

Cornell Maple Program: http://www.cornellmaple.com

Forum for maple producers to share ideas and equipment: http://www.mapletrader.com

Cornell’s How, When, and Why of Forest Farming Resource Center: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/forestfarming/

Beginners’ Guide to Silvopasturing (grazing livestock in forested areas): http://www2.dnr.cornell.edu/ext/info/pubs/agroforestry/Silvopasturing3-3-2011.pdf

Agroforestry Resource Center, Greene County: http://arc.cce.cornell.edu/

Agroforestry Overview, ATTRA: http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/agroforestry.html

Forestland Tax Exemption – 480-a

Privately owned forestland can be partially exempted from taxation but is liable for special levies/assessments under a state law called 480a.  The exemption is limited to the lesser of either:  (1) 80% of the assessed value of eligible acreage or; (2) the amount by which the assessed value exceeds $40 x the state equalization rate x number of acres.

To qualify for the exemption:

  • Requires an annual commitment to continued forest crop production for the next 10 years
  • Forests must be under a forest management plan approved by DEC
  • Must include at least 50 contiguous acres of forest land  (roads, rights-of-ways, energy transmission corridors, etc. are included)
  • Must have vehicular access for forest management purposes
  • Cannot have had a timber harvest for at least 3 years prior to application for certification under this program
  • Prescribed cutting may be required by DEC plan

To receive the exemption:

First Year:  Complete Form RP-480, must be accompanied by a 10-year commitment form from DEC and a certificate of approval from the county clerk’s office  – take these forms to your county/town assessor by the taxable status date (March 1).

Subsequent years: File a new copy of the 10-year commitment form with the assessor. If you fail to file the commitment form, the property is not eligible for the exemption.

For more information on this program, contact a DEC Forester in your region: www.dec.ny.gov/lands/5236.html

Agricultural Assessment for Maple Production

If you tap the maple trees on your forestland or lease your forestland to another maple producer, you may be able to qualify for an agricultural assessment.  This program does not require that a landowner develop or follow a written forest management plan and is less restrictive than 480-A. Please refer to the Agricultural Assessment section in Property Tax Exemption for Farmland (Fact Sheet #21) for details on this program.  If a landowner qualifies for agricultural assessment on their open land, they can also include up to 50 acres of attached woodland. However, maple syrup production is the only use of forestland that will qualify a landowner to receive agricultural assessment on its own.

Leasing forestland to a maple producer is an attractive option for landowners who would like to have their trees tapped but do not have the ability or desire to do the work themselves.  Oftentimes the tax savings of qualifying for ag assessment is more lucrative than the lease fees provided by the producer.  This requires a 5-year written contract with a maple producer who meets the minimum sales requirements for ag assessment.


This fact sheet is part of the Guide to Farming in NY by Monika Roth et al, published by the Cornell Small Farms Program and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Fact sheets are updated once annually, so information may have changed since last revision. If you are reading a printed version of a fact sheet, compare revision date with online fact sheet publish dates to make sure you have the latest version.

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