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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.758

Introduced by Representatives Potter of Clarendon, Helm of Castleton, Bray of New Haven, Copeland-Hanzas of Bradford, Leriche of Hardwick, Marcotte of Coventry, Botzow of Pownal, Clarkson of Woodstock, Evans of Essex, Haas of Rochester, Jewett of Ripton, Malcolm of Pawlet, McCullough of Williston, Mook of Bennington, Peltz of Woodbury, Randall of Troy, Sharpe of Bristol and Stevens of Shoreham

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Conservation; forestry; parcelization

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to establish programs to help prevent the parcelization of Vermont forest land.  The bill would authorize the Vermont housing and conservation board to use its funds to preserve and conserve forest land in the state.  The bill would also require the department of forests, parks and recreation to develop education materials regarding the impact of forest parcelization.  In addition, the bill would require the department of forests, parks and recreation to track forest parcelization rates within the state.

AN ACT RELATING TO THE PARCELIZATION OF VERMONT FORESTS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  FINDINGS

The general assembly finds that:

(1)  The forests of Vermont are integral to the economy, culture, beauty, and appeal of the state.

(2)  Forest-based manufacturing and forest-related recreation and tourism contribute $1.5 billion to the Vermont economy annually.

(3)  Revenues from forest-related recreation and tourism activities totaled $485 million in 2005.

(4)  Forest-based manufacturing contributes approximately 10 percent of Vermont’s total manufacturing sales.

(5)  The forest-based manufacturing industry provides employment for 6,379 people and generates a payroll of over $207.4 million.

(6)  Forest-based recreation and tourism provide employment for over 6,300 people and generate payrolls of $93.0 million.

(7)  Each 1,000 acres of forest land in Vermont supports 1.4 forest-based manufacturing, forestry, and logging jobs and 1.4 forest-related tourism and recreation jobs;

(8)  Wood provides the energy for approximately six percent of electrical and heating use in Vermont;

(9)  The forests of Vermont also help maintain the environment and health of Vermont by aiding the filtering of clean water and clean air and by providing wildlife habitat to a diversity of animals;

(10)  Despite the significant, unparalleled contributions of the forests, forest-based manufacturing, and forest-related recreation and tourism to the state’s economy, jobs, energy, and environment, the forestry and forest products industries receive considerably less support and financial assistance than those afforded other Vermont industries, such as agriculture.

(11)  Development and financial pressure are forcing many owners of Vermont forest land to divide and sell large forest parcels, thereby reducing the amount of land available to the forestry and forest products industries of Vermont.

(12)  To support Vermont’s forestry and forest products industries and to help reduce the forest parcelization rates within the state, the general assembly should:

(A)  Empower the Vermont housing conservation board to use funds to conserve and protect forest land in Vermont;

(B)  Disburse 50 percent of the revenue from the property transfer tax in the Vermont housing and conservation fund as set forth in statute in order to ensure that funds are available to conserve and protect forest land;

(C)  Provide property owners with education materials regarding the impact of forest parcelization on the economy, culture, and beauty of Vermont; and

(D)  Require the department of forest, parks and recreation to track the parcelization of Vermont forest land.

Sec. 2.  10 V.S.A. § 303 is amended to read:

§ 303.  DEFINITIONS

As used in this chapter:

(1)  “Board” means the Vermont housing and conservation board established by this chapter.

(2)  “Fund” means the Vermont housing and conservation trust fund established by this chapter.

(3)  “Eligible activity” means any activity which will carry out either or both of the dual purposes of creating affordable housing and conserving and protecting important Vermont lands, including activities which will encourage or assist:

(A)  the preservation, rehabilitation, or development of residential dwelling units which are affordable to lower income Vermonters;

(B)  the retention of agricultural land for agricultural use;

(C)  the protection of important wildlife habitat and important natural areas;

(D)  the preservation of historic properties or resources;

(E)  the protection of areas suited for outdoor public recreational activity;

(F)  the development of capacity on the part of an eligible applicant to engage in an eligible activity;

(G)  the retention, conservation, and preservation of forested land that will be available for silivicultural use, including continued sustainable timber harvesting.

(4)  “Eligible applicant” means any municipality, department of state government as defined in 10 V.S.A. § 6302(a), nonprofit organization qualifying under section Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code or cooperative housing organization, the purpose of which is the creation or retention of affordable housing for lower income Vermonters and the bylaws of which require that such housing be maintained as affordable housing for lower income Vermonters on a perpetual basis.

(5)  “Lower income” means less than or equal to the median income based on statistics from state or federal sources.

(6)  “Important natural area” means any area containing one or more endangered species as defined in 10 V.S.A., chapter 123 or any area essential to maintaining the ecological diversity or natural heritage of the state.

(7)  “Historic property or resource” means any building, structure, object, district, area, or site that is significant in the history, architecture, archeology, or culture of this state, its communities, or the nation.

Sec. 3.  10 V.S.A. § 2623a is added to read:

§ 2623a.  FOREST FRAGMENTATION; EDUCATION; OUTREACH

(a)  The commissioner, in consultation with the extension service of the University of Vermont, shall develop a program to educate Vermont landowners, regional planners, municipal officials and listers, municipal planners, developers, real estate agents, and others regarding the need to prevent forest fragmentation and parcelization in the state.  The education and outreach program shall include:

(1)  Development of educational materials to be provided to the landowners enrolling land in the use value appraisal program under chapter 124 of Title 32 regarding the impact of forest fragmentation on the environment, culture, and forestry industry of Vermont and management techniques and alternatives to prevent additional forest fragmentation and parcelization.  The commissioner may make these materials available to landowners enrolled in the use value program in a manner that the commissioner, after consultation with the division of property valuation and review, deems the most effective.

(2)  Development and distribution of educational materials to new landowners in Vermont regarding the impact of forest fragmentation on the environment, culture, and forestry industry of Vermont and techniques and alternatives to prevent additional forest fragmentation and parcelization.

(3)  Educational materials or educational courses regarding how sustainable forest harvesting, family estate planning, and intergenerational land transfers can reduce pressure to develop forest land, help retain forest land cover, and maintain an income from forestry for owners of forest land in the state.

(4)  Development and distribution of educational materials to municipal officials and listers regarding the impact of forest fragmentation on the environment, culture, and economy of Vermont; the value and necessity of the use value appraisal program in preventing forest fragmentation; and how the use value appraisal program is implemented, including how municipalities are reimbursed for any property tax revenue lost due to land enrolled in the use value appraisal program.

(b)  The information that the commissioner is required to develop under subsection (a) of this section shall be made available to the general public in the manner deemed most effective, which may include:

(1)  Public hearings;

(2)  Public service announcements by means of electronic media; and

(3)  Other methods deemed by the commissioner to be likely to be effective.

Sec. 4.  TRACKING PARCELIZATION OF VERMONT FORESTS

Utilizing data in its possession, property transfer data available from the division of property valuation and review, and any additional data, the department of forests, parks and recreation shall track the parcelization of forest land in Vermont.  To facilitate establishment of the program, the department of forests, parks and recreation shall consult with the division of property valuation and review, the Vermont league of cities and towns, municipalities, the Vermont planners association, and other interested parties on methods for sharing property transfer data, making such data available electronically, and utilizing the data to determine forest land parcelization rates in the state.

Sec. 5.  APPROPRIATIONS

In addition to any other funds appropriated to the agency of natural resources in fiscal year 2009, there is appropriated from the general fund to the agency:

(1)  $300,000.00 to be used by the department of forests, parks and recreation to track parcelization of Vermont forests under Sec. 4 (tracking forest parcelization) of this act; and

(2)  $200,000.00 to conduct the education and outreach under Sec. 3 (forest fragmentation outreach and education) of this act.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us