Glossary

480a

The New York Forest Tax Law Program (commonly called “480a” after the section of the tax code relating to it) is a property tax reduction program. Participation is voluntary, and you must own at least 50 acres of woods in adjoining properties in New York to be eligible. 480a lowers your taxes by exempting up to 80% of the assessed value of enrolled acreage from property taxes.

480a Management Plan

A document submited to NY Department of Environmental Conservation to enroll your property in the 480a Forest Tax Law. The 480a Management Plan shows the boundaries and size of your woodlot, what kinds and sizes of trees it contains, and what needs to be done to harvest trees. A plan identifies scheduled commercial harvests, noncommercial thinnings, road construction, and other management practices. These practices are listed in a work schedule that shows the work to be done each year for the next 15 years.

480a Update

To maintain your 480a tax reduction, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation requires that you update your 480a management plan every five years. Your consulting forester can help you with this task.

Acceptable Growing Stock (AGS)

Trees of a quality suitable for sawing into lumber. They are typically larger, healthier trees with tall, straight trunks with few low-growing branches.

Agricultural Assessment

A New York State program for lowering property taxes on active farmlands. The state defines farming broadly, so forest products like maple syrup may be eligible.

All Terrain Vehicle (ATV)

"All Terrain Vehicle" - a motorized vehicle designed to get around trails and over rough terrain.

Basal Area

If you cut through a tree 4.5 feet off the ground and found the area of the stump, that would be the basal area. Adding up all these areas over an acre gives a sense of how dense trees are growing in your woods.

Best Management Practice (BMP)

A water quality protection tool used primarily on trails to keep them stable and limit erosion.

BMP

"Best Management Practice" - a water quality protection tool used primarily on trails to keep them stable and limit erosion.

Board Foot

A measure of wood volume. One board foot is 12 inches long, 12 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. When selling timber, landowners are commonly paid per thousand board feet of volume in their trees, commonly abbreviated "MBF."

Buffer

A strip of plants of varying sizes maintained along a road, stream, cabin or other area to reduce the visual or environmental impacts of human activity such as farming or logging.

Certified Forester

A professional certification by the Society of American Foresters

Commercial Harvest

A logging job that earns the landowner money.

Conservation Easement

An easement granted by a landowner to a public or private entity (as a land trust) in which the landowner agrees to restrictions on use of the land (as from development) and the holder agrees to enforce the restrictions.

Consulting Forester

A forester that advises a landowner on what actions to take to manage their woodland. They also act as the landowner's agent in selling and overseeing timber harvesting.

Cooperating Forester

A forester designation by the NY Department of Environmental Conservation. Cooperating foresters are eligible to write forest management plans to enroll landowners in 480a.

Crop Tree

A tree selected to be part of a future commercial harvest. These are generally the straightest, healthiest, fastest-growing trees of the most valuable species. They are often encouraged to grow more quickly by removing smaller trees near them that compete with them for light, water, and nutrients.

Cruising

The act of estimating the amount and quality of timber in a woodlot. Usually performed by a forester as part of writing a management plan or preparing for a timber harvest.

Cull Tree

The poorest quality trees from a commercial standpoint. They are usually of such poor form and undesirable species that they have little if any market value. They are sometimes removed in harvests or used for firewood to encourage growth of more valuable trees growing near them.

DBH

"Diameter at breast height" - the diameter of a tree measured 4.5 feet off the ground.

Diameter Limit

An unsustainable type of harvest that removes trees above a certain diameter. It provides short-term income, but degrades the woods and often makes future harvests impossible or at least of much lower economic value. Avoid these types of harvests.

Ecosystem

A group of interconnected elements, both living and non-living, that interact together in their environment. Examples include a pond, field, or woodland.

Erosion

The wearing away of land by water or wind. In the woods, water erosion is the most common and can be a concern for water quality and recreational access. Erosion may be worsened by human causes, such as poor logging practices. These human impacts can often be reduced by using Best Management Practices.

Estate

Your collective property and possessions.

Estate Planning

Preparing a strategy for the transfer of land and property to your heirs after death, and settling of estate taxes. Often set up with the help of an attorney.

Forest Health

The perceived condition of a forest based on its age, structure, species diversity, growth rate, and ability to withstand or recover from disturbances like fire, disease, or timber harvesting. A "healthy forest" generally has faster growth, a greater variety of plant and animals of different sizes, and is better able to recover from disturbance.

Forest Inventory

A measurement of the types, sizes, and distribution of trees growing in a wooded area.

Forest Land

Federal land defintions call forest land any area at least an acre in size that is at least 10% stocked with trees of any size. Forest land can also include land that used to have tree cover that will have it again either through planting or natural regrowth, such as an area that was burned by a fire that will grow back with new trees.

Forest Management Plan

A written document that records the current status of a wooded property. It commonly describes the number and size of each tree species, the state of trails, and the landowner's goals. It also recommends practices over a length of time (generally 10-15 years) to help the landowner meet their goals. Forest management plans are typically prepared by a professional consulting forester and may be required for certain government programs, like New York's Forest Tax Law, 480a.

Forest Tax Law

The New York Forest Tax Law Program (commonly called “480a” after the section of the tax code relating to it) is a property tax reduction program. Participation is voluntary, and you must own at least 50 acres of woods in adjoining properties in New York to be eligible. 480a lowers your taxes by exempting up to 80% of the assessed value of enrolled acreage from property taxes.

Forester

A college-trained professional who advises landowners on the care and stewardship of their wooded acreage.

Forestland

Federal land defintions call forestland any area at least an acre in size that is at least 10% stocked with trees of any size. Forestland can also include land that used to have tree cover that will have it again either through planting or natural regrowth, such as an area that was burned by a fire that will grow back with new trees.

Forestry Practices

The set of activities that together help steward woodlots for economic and environmental values.

Habitat Tree

A tree of especially high value for wildlife. These trees often have some unusual quality that makes them more useful than others for wildlife. Common traits include exceptional size, very old age, and the production of fruit like acorns. Standing dead trees can also be habitat trees, because they often provide cavities for animals to nest in.

Hardwood

In general, trees with traditional leaves, as opposed to needles. You might also see these trees called "broad-leafed" trees. Despite the name, hardwoods aren't necessarily "hard" in terms of how dense they are.

Harvest Boundary

The edge of a logging job. It may or may not be the same as the boundary of your property. Generally the harvest boundary will be marked in the field with paint or flagging.

Heavy Equipment

Large motorized equipment used for different tasks. Example: bulldozer, excavator, backhoe, skidder.

Heirloom

A family possession handed down from generation to generation.

High Grade

An unsustainable type of harvest that removes only the largest trees of the most valuable species. It provides short-term income, but degrades the woods and often makes future harvests impossible or at least of much lower economic value. Avoid these types of harvests.

Legacy

Personal property or money handed down from an ancestor.

Legacy Planning

Preparing a strategy for the transfer of land and property to your heirs after death.

Logging

The cutting, processing, and loading of logs from a woodlot or forest to go to a sawmill. Also called "timber harvesting."

Management Plan

A written document that records the current status of a wooded property. It commonly describes the number and size of each tree species, the state of trails, and the landowner's goals. It also recommends practices over a length of time (generally 10-15 years) to help the landowner meet their goals. Management plans are typically prepared by a professional consulting forester and may be required for certain government programs, like New York's Forest Tax Law, 480a.

Master Forest Owner (MFO)

Volunteer woodland owners who have received traning from Cornell University, and then provide free on-site visits to other landowners to share their experiences. Sometimes referred to as "MFOs."

New York City Watershed

The region in the Catskill Mountains and Lower Hudson areas of New York State that supplies drinking water to New York City.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC)

Commonly referred to as "DEC," this state government agency is responsible for overseeing state-owned public lands in New York as well as regulating forestry activities. They also administer the state's Forest Tax Law Program, 480a.

Non-commercial Harvest

A type of logging where the landowner is not receiving income. These harvests are usually done either to speed up growth on remaining trees to make them more valuable in future harvests, or for environmental objectives such as improving wildlife habitat.

Open Space

Undeveloped land that is protected from development by legislation.

Pollutes

To make foul or unclean, especially with harmful chemicals or waste.

Pre-commercial thinning

A type of logging done in smaller, younger trees to focus growth on the future most-valuable trees. Also called "Timber Stand Improvement" or "TSI."

Procurement Forester

A forester who works for a sawmill. Procurement foresters help the mill purchase timber and oversee logging jobs.

Pruning

The removal of side branches (both living and dead) from a tree. Pruning is generally done in plantations (and especially in softwoods) to improve the quality of wood when it is eventually sold and harvested.

Regeneration

The next generation of trees in a forest or woodlot. Regeneration usually refers to very young trees (especially seedlings) shorter than six feet tall. Regeneration can be natural (the children of adult trees in the existing woods) or artificial (trees planted by humans).

Riparian

The area surrounding a stream, wetland, or other body of water. These areas often have a high level of influence on the water bodies they are close to, and as a result warrant special protection when harvesting timber.

Silvicultural Treatments

Types of timber harvests used to sustain wood production over time, as opposed to exploitative cuts that drain the woods of its future economic value.

Silviculture

The art and science of influencing the growth, composition, health, and quality of forests and woodlands to meet the needs of the landowner and society.

Silviculture Prescription

A recommendation from a forester on a particular way to harvest timber from an area of woods.

Site Class

A measure of the quality of soil for growing trees, usually expressed as a height of trees at a given age.

Society of Americn Foresters (SAF)

A non-profit, professional organization for foresters in the United States.

Softwood

In general, trees with needles. You might also see these trees called "conifers" or even generally "pine trees" (although not all conifers are actually pines). Despite the name, some softwoods can have hard, dense wood.

Soils Map

A map of an area that shows the different kinds of soils present there. A soils map is useful when planting trees to help decide which species to plant. It also comes in handy when building trails or logging access systems to minimize erosion, rutting, and pollution.

Stand

In a forest or woodlot, a stand refers to a section of trees that is relatively uniform in its mix of tree species and sizes.

Stumpage

The economic value of timber as it stands uncut as trees in the woods. When landowners sell trees, they usually receive income based on their trees' stumpage value.

Sustainable Forest Management

The practice of meeting current needs from the forest without compromising the forest's ability to meet those needs in the future.

Tax Parcel ID Number

A unique, publicly accessible number for a parcel of land. Most commonly used for property tax assessment purposes.

Timber Management

Harvesting a section of woods over time in an effort to maximize its long-term economic value for wood production.

Timber Production

Investing in your woods over time to increase its ability to provide income in the form of high-quality wood products. Includes tree planting, non-commercial thinning, and commercial timber harvesting.

Timber Sale

Selling the right to harvest certain trees on your property to a willing buyer, usually a logger or sawmill.

Timber Sale Contract

A written agreement between a landowner and anyone involved in harvesting trees from their woods, such as sawmills, loggers, and foresters.

Timber Stand Improvement (TSI)

A type of logging done in smaller, younger trees to focus growth on the future most-valuable trees. Also called "pre-commerical thinning."

Unacceptable Growing Stock (UGS)

Trees of poor quality unsuitable for lumber. They may be diseased or deformed in some way. These trees usually have little market value, though they may be usable as firewood or ground into pulp for paper.

WAC 480a Incentives

Cost-share payments provided by the non-profit Watershed Agricultural Council to assist New York landowners with enrolling in the New York State Forest Tax Law or updating their management plans under that law.

Waterbar

A raised berm of soil across a road or trail in the woods with the goal of diverting water off the road to reduce trail erosion and protect water quality.

Woodlot

An area of land set aside for trees, especially on privately owned land.