View the complete text of Act 15

ACT NO. 15

Forestry Practices; Heavy Cutting

This act requires landowners who intend to conduct a "heavy cut" of 40 acres or more, on land owned or controlled by the landowner, to file a notice of intent to cut with a department field forester. If an exemption specified in the act does not apply, the landowner is required to conduct the cut in compliance with the rules which are to be adopted by the commissioner of forests, parks, and recreation.

This act requires the commissioner of forests, parks and recreation to adopt rules establishing forestry standards and silvicultural guidelines to govern practices employed during regulated large-scale heavy cutting of timber. The rules, which shall be adopted as emergency rules until revised according to the normal rulemaking process, must also establish requirements with respect to soil productivity, water quality, wetlands, riparian zones, significant wildlife habitat areas, unique or fragile areas, regeneration, scenic quality and unusual environmental events such as those causing severe damage from wind, ice, disease or insect infestation.

The act defines "heavy cutting," as a harvest which leaves a residual stocking level of acceptablegrowing stock below what is referred to in the industry as the "C-line", as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture silvicultural stocking guides for the applicable timber type. "Acceptable growing stock" is defined as a stem having a diameter of 4.5 inches, or greater, at breast height, which has the potential to produce a sawlog product of a commercial species of any grade. Together, the definitions attempt to define the point at which a harvest becomes a liquidation cut, as opposed to a sustainable harvest.

The act exempts from the requirements the following: (1) heavy cuts intended to carry out agricultural conversions that will result in land in agricultural production within five years; (2) heavy cuts to carry out a conversion regulated by Act 250 or the public service board; (3) heavy cuts consistent with an approved forest management plan under the current use assessment program, consistent with an approved chip harvesting plan, or consistent with any other plan approved under other department rules.

The act defines "landowner" to include affiliated owners, but to exclude logging contractors who do not own the land or the timber. It computes the 40 acre regulatory threshold to include lands owned by the same landowner within a radius of 1,000 feet, and it regulates heavy cutting on a landowner’s lands within a radius of two miles, if the total acreage subject to heavy cut exceeds 80 acres.

The act establishes procedures pursuant to which an applicant submits an intent to cut, and within 15 days, a department field forester determines whether or not an exemption applies. If an exemption does not apply and a field review is required, there shall be a fee of $100.00. If the proposal is in conformance with the rules, the applicant will be issued authorization to proceed. If an exemption is denied or authorization to proceed is denied, the landowner shall have 30 days to appeal to the commissioner, who is to issue a decision within 30 days. The landowner may appeal the commissioner’s decision within 30 days to the environmental court, where the matter will be reviewed on the record and where the commissioner’s decision will be affirmed unless the court finds that the commissioner did not have reasonable grounds on which to base the decision.

Violations of the act or the rules adopted under the act shall be subject to enforcement under the uniform environmental enforcement chapter. The commissioner, in cooperation with the forest products industry, is required to develop an educational program for landowners, loggers and other interested parties, concerning the act and the rules adopted under the act. The commissioner is to report to the legislature by January 15, 1999 on the status of rulemaking, and by January 15, 2002 on the impact of the act on the forest products industry and on the sustainability of Vermont’s forest resources.

Effective Date: May 6, 1997