State property tax incentives for promoting ecosystem goods and services from private forest land in the United States: a review and analysis.
Financial incentives provided by State property tax programs are a means of promoting ecosystem services from private forest land. Identified by this 50-State 2015 review, categories of ecosystem services frequently promoted by such programs are open space and scenic resources, conservation of soils and wetlands, protection and supply of fish and wildlife, protection and supply of water, production of timber and fiber products, recreational uses and resource preservation, and integrity and sustainability of forests. Focusing on the promotion of these services, preferential property programs required participants to meet certain conditions, including proof of legitimate ownership and use of forest land, appropriate size of parcel and forest conditions, implementation of a professionally prepared forest management plan, informing authorities of intent to harvest timber, engaging in reviews and inspections, and acceptance of the imposition of financial or procedural penalties. Implementation of these conditions required actions by various agencies in many levels of government, most frequently offices of local governments, citizen advisory committees and boards, tax review appeals and equalization boards, forestry boards and commissions, forestry divisions within State natural resource departments, and State departments of finance and revenue. In 2014, promotion of ecosystem services from private forest land involved 58 different State property tax programs enrolling nearly 210 million acres of forest land nationwide. With enrollment in any one program ranging from 400 to more than 413,000 participants, more than 3.85 million participants were the immediate beneficiaries. These participants cumulatively received more than $1.61 billion in annual property tax reduction for purposes of promoting ecosystem services. The annual value of this reduction was an acre-weighted average of $7.68 per acre.