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.
The best way to help pollinators is to provide more of the food that they need to survive. Native plants can support hundreds more species of pollinators than non-native ornamentals, so as much as possible, incorporate native plants into your garden and landscaping.
The flute-clear notes of a wood thrush. The aerial acrobatics of an American woodcock. Your woodlot can support an astonishing variety of birds, but different birds have different needs. If you want to see more birds, create greater variety on your property.
More than 4,000 species of bees are native to North America, and most don’t form hives and rarely sting. You can help bees by building or buying a wood or bamboo nesting house for them. Note: due to fungal infestations, replace your bee nesting houses every 2-3 years.
Most ducks nest on the ground, but wood ducks nest in tree cavities. You can attract these beautiful waterfowl to your pond by building and installing a simple nest box for them.
Just setting up a bird nesting box isn’t enough to keep birds using it. Periodic cleaning will reduce nest parasites and improve the health of both adult and baby birds.
Huge lawns have little wildlife value. If you have an expansive lawn on your property, save yourself some mowing and let part of that lawn transition to young woods.
If your woods are short on snags (standing dead trees), you can create some of this valuable wildlife habitat by girdling trees. Girdling kills a tree while leaving it standing so it can become a snag.
If your property is entirely wooded, your only option to create some young forest may be through careful timber harvesting methods, such as patch cuts.
The first and most important step when taking on a tree-planting project is to choose the tree species that will meet your needs as well as have a good chance of surviving in the spot you intend to plant them.
You may think your dead and fallen trees are eyesores that need to be cleaned up, but a few dead trees benefit your woodlot in lots of ways.
We hear a lot about how valuable old-growth forests are for wildlife, but what makes them such great places for animals? Once you know that, you can mimic those same traits in your own woods.
Old fields, shrublands, and brushy areas of young trees may lack the majesty of older forests, but they’re important food and cover sources for many birds and other wildlife.
True old-growth forests have greenery at every level from the forest floor to the top of the canopy. You can start some new growth on the ground using small patch cuts, which remove every tree from an area less than an acre.
Trees provide food, dens, and nest sites for wildlife, but some trees are more useful to animals than others. Once you find trees that provide the most value to wildlife, you can cut adjacent trees to give the remaining ones more room to grow.
Vernal pools are unique wetlands that only have water part of the year. Though often hard to spot, vernal pools provide critical breeding habitat for amphibians. Learn to recognize vernal pools and discover what you can do to protect yours.
Macroinvertebrates—creatures without backbones but that you can see with your naked eye—live in streams and are important food sources for larger wildlife. These critters are easy to find and identify by turning over rocks and sifting the streambed through a net.
Tree cavities and dead trees are important wildlife habitats that are often missing in many woodlots. Locate these features in your woods to find out if you have enough of these wildlife havens.
Experience the joy and excitement of discovery with these fun nature scavenger hunts. You can do one of these, or make up your own! This is a great activity to do with children.
Hummingbird feeders with a sugar-and-water solution can provide supplemental food for hummingbirds and enjoyment for humans. Maintained properly, feeders won’t harm hummingbirds and will give them the energy they need to go after their real desired food: insects.
If you spend enough time in nature you will likely find injured wildlife. Learn what to do – and what not to do – when the time comes.
Trees mark the changing seasons, protect our water, and clean our air. You can figure out which tree is which by spotting differences in leaves, bark, and even where a tree is growing.
Wondering what that pretty flower is? There are a variety of resources to help you figure it out.
You may not always see wildlife in your woods, but by learning how to interpret their tracks, you can learn a lot about the animals on your land and their behavior.
Like many outdoor activities, wildlife tracking requires practice and patience. If you already have a basic understanding of wildlife tracks, these resources will help you take your tracking skills to the next level.
Bats freak out some people, but they’re actually remarkable creatures that can catch as many as 1,000 mosquitoes every hour. You can help give bats a safe, warm place to raise their young by hanging a bat box from your house or a freestanding post.
New York's bluebird population has dropped 90% due to pesticides, shortage of natural nesting cavities, and competition from sparrows and starlings. You can help! Install a bluebird nesting box on your woodlot so these colorful songbirds can raise their families.
Plants, mushrooms, insects, and all sorts of other interesting critters make a living on fallen logs. Peek under a log to discover this fascinating woodland world.
Not every property has rare plants or animals, but some do. It’s important to know if your land supports any of these species, because it can influence when and how you can do other activities like cutting firewood, selling timber, and growing crops.
Overuse of pesticides, particularly insecticides called neonicotinoids, is a major cause of pollinator decline. Limiting or stopping your use of these chemicals can help keep more pollinators alive.
Even with protection, newly planted trees need your tender loving care to help them survive. Use the information in this activity to help give your trees the best chance for long-term success.
Young woods don’t stay young. Old fields and shrublands gradually give way to older forest. You can maintain these important habitats with periodic mowing and brush hogging.
Sometimes you won't be able to identify a tree or plant on the spot. Other times you may want to keep a leaf or flower to appreciate later. A plant press preserves leaves, twigs, flowers and buds so you can look at them whenever you want.
Food plots are an excellent way to attract animals to your property. Not just for hunters, food plots increase wildlife viewing opportunities and make animals healthier.
Just like your doctor runs tests to determine your health, you can find out the health of your woodlot by hiking your land and looking at several indicators.
Planting a tree isn’t as simple as digging a hole. Proper planting technique can mean the difference between life and death for a baby tree.
Young trees, both newly planted and naturally growing, will benefit from protection from deer. Deer protection can be as wide-ranging as fencing off an area of your woodlot or as specific as tubing individual trees.
Wild apple trees are an important food for wildlife, but overcrowding within a tree and between neighboring trees can reduce the number of apples they produce. Prune branches and clear around wild apple trees to help them grow more fruit.
Perhaps the best known visual signs of old-growth forests are their truly enormous trees. You can accelerate large tree growth in your woods by finding your healthiest “legacy trees” and removing competing trees around them so the big trees can grow faster.