480-a offers the potential for you to save substantially on your property taxes, but it also requires a commitment to managing your woodlot for the next 10 years. Consider the benefits and obligations carefully before you enroll.
If you own a woodlot in the New York City Watershed, the Watershed Agricultural Council provides money to help you enroll in 480-a. The New York City Watershed includes portions of eight New York counties: Delaware, Dutchess, Greene, Putnam, Schoharie, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester.
480-a requires you to have and follow a management plan for your woodlot written by a professional forester. Choosing the right forester for you will help not only during plan creation, but also when you decide to harvest timber.
Once you have a written management plan, you must submit that plan and the required forms to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation in order to enroll in 480-a. Be sure to enroll by December 31 to receive your tax break for the coming year.
If you were previously approved for Watershed Agricultural Council cost-share funding, you can receive your payment once you've enrolled in 480-a. Send a copy of your 480-a certificate of approval, management plan, and work schedule to the Council, and your check will be mailed within 30 days.
If you enroll your land in the New York State 480-a Forest Tax Law Program, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) requires you to update your management plan every 5 years. How do you go about getting that update done?
Agricultural assessments can reduce your property taxes for land actively used for farming. Many farm products qualify, but the program has acreage and earnings thresholds and time commitments. Consider the benefits and obligations carefully before you enroll.
Submit your soils map, completed application, and lease agreement (if leasing land to a farmer) to your local assessor. Your assessor must receive all these documents before March 1 for you to receive your agricultural assessment and have your taxes lowered.
You can subtract the value of the timber when you first purchased or inherited your woodlot – your "basis" – from your taxable income when you have a timber sale. This reduces your taxable income. If you don't know your woodlot's basis, a consulting forester can help you determine it.
How you report income from logging and how much tax you owe depend on which of 3 tax classes your woodlot falls into. You can determine your woodlot's tax class by answering a few simple questions about why you own it and how you use it.
Once you've worked with an assessor to begin your application, contact the Soil and Water Conservation District office for the county where your woodlot is located. They will map the soils on your property, and your assessor will use that information to calculate your tax break.
The best place to start when seeking an agricultural assessment is the tax assessor for the town where your woodlot is located. Your assessor can confirm your eligibility, help you fill out a program application, and provide directions for next steps.
If you want to produce syrup commercially, you’ll need hands-on, in-woods advice.
With a buyer chosen and a contract signed, you're ready for a logger to start cutting. Your forester will monitor the harvest periodically to ensure that the contract terms are carried out.
When the cutting finishes, your woodlot can look like a mess. Under direction from your forester, your logger should clean up the site in accordance with your timber sale contract and best practices to protect your woodlot and water quality.
This friendly competition organized by the New York Forest Owners Association and Cornell Cooperative Extension encourages landowners to grow the best quality trees possible on their property. Landowners in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania are eligible.
With careful planning, you can promote growth of sugar maple trees to improve their sap production and net you more syrup.
Tree species, size, and quality all affect how much a logger will pay for your timber. Like weeding a garden, you can boost the future income of your woodlot by cutting poorly growing trees to give higher-value ones more room to grow.
Learn the regulations around harvesting wild American Ginseng in New York State. Plus, find out what makes a good ginseng site, whether your woodlot might be a suitable home to this rare plant, and how to grow and harvest it.
A written contract is essential to a good timber harvest. It lays out who will do what, which trees will be cut, how the work will be done, how much you'll be paid, how clean up will occur, and what should happen if something goes wrong.
A written plan by a forester provides professional guidance for managing your woodlot over 10-15 years. If you own a lot of land or you intend to harvest trees regularly, a plan may be helpful for you (Requires a Professional Forester).
The woods are a great place to grow mushrooms like shiitake. Whether you grow a few for yourself or make it a business, mushroom farming can be a rewarding venture.
When you’re ready to cut Christmas trees, these resources will help make sure all the effort you’ve put in over the last 10 years will be rewarded in a beautiful tree that makes it through the holiday season.
Master Forest Owners are landowners trained by Cornell University to help you care for your woodlot. They visit landowners, walk the land with them, and share knowledge and experiences all without charge.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has foresters who will visit your property for free and provide personalized advice about harvesting your trees.
Like a real estate agent in selling a house, a consulting forester walks you through the challenges of harvesting trees. Call before you cut and find the right forester for you and your woodlot.
Harvesting wild American ginseng is heavily restricted in New York, but you can grow your own for sale.
This “lost fruit” is edible, native, and gaining more attention in the woodland owner and general agroforestry circles.
Ramps, also known as wild onions or wild leeks, are edible woodland plants that grow in the spring throughout the Northeast, Appalachia, and Great Lakes regions. If you like garlic, you’ll probably like ramps too. This activity demonstrates where you might expect to find ramps and how you can sustainably harvest them. Whether you are a recreational forager or thinking about growing ramps in your woods as a cash crop, this activity is for you.
Mushrooms are one of the most common crops grown in the woods. Of the many kinds available, research suggests shiitake mushrooms have the most profit potential.
Silvopasture deliberately integrates livestock, trees, and forage on the same land. This type of management is considered one of the five temperate agroforestry practices recognized by the USDA. It can be done in existing woodlots or by bringing trees into pasture settings. The systems are managed for both short and long-term income sources. There are many variations and options for systems and the resources below offer some starting points.
Most hunters rely on private land to access game. If you don’t mind limiting your own ability to hunt, leasing your land to hunters can be a way to earn some money and manage local deer numbers.
Christmas trees need annual maintenance both to help them survive and to gain that classic, cone-shaped Christmas tree form.
If you want to make maple syrup just for personal use, consider the turkey fryer-and-stovetop method over large equipment.
Foresters typically bid timber out to multiple sawmills to get the best price. Work with your forester to choose a responsible bidder.
Once you've selected a forester, have him or her meet with you to discuss what you want from your harvest. Your forester will then mark the trees that should be cut to meet your goals for your woodlot.
Learn how big your trees are, how quickly they're growing, and whether your woods could use a thinning using these simple tree-measuring techniques.
Christmas trees take about 10 years to grow from planting to harvest. Plan ahead to give your operation the best chance for success.
Proper planting for Christmas trees means more than sticking them in the ground. Follow the advice in this activity to help your baby Christmas trees get a good start.
You can cut the lower branches of some trees to increase their value. Discover what species it makes sense to prune and how to prune them successfully.
Farming the Woods is the definitive resource on woodland crop options for landowners in the eastern United States.
With public campsites increasingly crowded, urban and suburban residents are often willing to pay landowners to let them camp on their property for a weekend getaway.
You don’t need to tap hundreds of trees to make maple syrup. Even tapping one tree can net you enough syrup to last several months.