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How Vermont’s Use Value Appraisal Program Can Benefit Your Forestland

When it comes to Vermont’s forested land, thoughtful maintenance and care is essential to its overall health.

The state of Vermont is around 80% forested, and 80% of that forested land is privately owned. Management of private forestland is a significant driver of forest health and productivity in the state. It’s a major factor that led to the creation of the Use Value Appraisal (UVA) Program, also known as “Current Use”.

The UVA program “enables landowners who practice long-term forest management to have their enrolled land assessed for property taxes based on its value for forest management rather than its fair market (development) value.” There are benefits for the landowner to enrolling in this program and these can be realized with help from a licensed forester.

Butternut Mountain Farm is able to provide the services of a licensed Forester to handle enrollment into the UVA Program as well as handling other issues that can arise with land ownership and transfers, as they relate to the Use Value Appraisal Program. You will find an in depth understanding of the program, and how we can help, below.

Enrollment in UVA

The requirements for Use Value enrollment are complicated.  You are welcome to contact us to see if your land qualifies for the program.  As a baseline, you must own at least 25 acres for enrollment into the Forestland Category and 20 of those acres must be forested.  You are not allowed to enroll two acres situated around dwellings.  For this reason, many owners must own at least 27 acres.

The land will be enrolled as Managed Forestland and will need to be managed according to a 10-year forest management plan approved by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation. Plans expire after 10 years.

The landowner who enrolls in the UVA program benefits from their land being taxed at the use value, in its current use, either forest or agricultural, rather than the development value, or future value if it was to be developed. The goal of this program is to keep forests as forests.

The state benefits by having these parcels managed to an approved standard of forest practices, keeping the land in active use and production. This supports traditional economic drivers in Vermont like the forest products and agricultural sectors, reduces sprawl into rural landscapes, and limits subdivision that may be driven by economic pressures from higher taxes.

To realize these tax savings, a landowner must hire a licensed forester to draft them a management plan and map. 

The Development of a Forest Management Plan

This plan starts with an assessment of the forest resources on the land.  In Vermont it could vary from oak hickory forest in the Champlain Valley to spruce-fir in the Northeast kingdom, to mountainsides covered with sugar maple, tapped for sap collection, or a small woodlot behind the hayfields on a working farm.

Once the forest resource is quantified the forester drafts a management plan with input from the landowner about their goals for the land, concerns for wildlife habitat, their traditional uses, and their wishes for the future.  With this information, a Forester refers to guidelines that are approved by the State as scientifically viable ways to manage a woodlot, and drafts management recommendations. 

These recommendations could vary from annual firewood harvest to intermittent sawlog and pulpwood harvest, to larger scale patch cuts to benefit wildlife.  There are new options to enroll land as Forestland Reserve, if certain criteria are met, to manage land for older forests and carbon sequestration. Maple sugaring, as well as timber harvesting, qualifies as forest management.

Once this plan is written and approved by the landowner, it is submitted to the County Forester, who is an employee of the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks and Recreation and responsible for overseeing properties enrolled in UVA.  Once reviewed and approved by the County Forester, the Tax Department is notified that the property is eligible for enrollment in UVA, and the Tax Department determines the “Use Value” of the property, and the resulting tax reduction, to then be relayed to the town in which the land is located, for it to be reflected on the property tax bill.  

Learn more about the tax savings when enrolled in Vermont’s Use Value Appraisal Program here!