Take Action: It's time to modernize Vermont's Use Value Appraisal program
Updated: Jan 20, 2022
by Zack Porter
Updated January 20, 2022
Special request: are you a landowner enrolled in UVA? Would you be willing to speak publicly in support of changes to the program? Please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background: Vermont forest landowners who qualify for a tax break under UVA (the minimum requirement is 25 acres of forestland) are required to log their land to participate in the program. Vermont is the only state with such a program in New England that doesn't have an open space or wildlands option. To meet the challenge of the climate and extinction crises, and to achieve the goals in Vermont Conservation Design for restoring old forests, we must fix UVA so that we can protect more wildlands. Wild forests support the full range of Vermont's native biodiversity, store the most carbon, clean our air and water, and protect our communities from floods and droughts better than logged forests.
When established in 1977, UVA was intended to help protect wild forests as well as forests managed for wood products. Since then, the scope of the program has been increasingly narrowed to suit the timber industry. Today, the program is overwhelmingly focused on timber extraction to the detriment of other purposes that were mandated in the legislation that enabled the program.
Here's the current situation: For the past year, Standing Trees has worked with a new coalition called Wild Forests Vermont which is solely focused on reforming UVA. As expected, the state of VT is pushing back by trying to limit which lands are eligible to be enrolled as wild forests, meaning only a small number of landowners would qualify based on where their land is located. In fact, under the plan proposed by Vermont's Dept. of Forests, Parks and Recreation, only 30% of the total parcels that are either enrolled in UVA or eligible for enrollment could qualify for this new wild forests category. Such a restricted program would leave out critical, biologically-rich landscapes across the state. Equally important, this approach arbitrarily discriminates against 70% of Vermont landowners who otherwise qualify for UVA by mandating that they harvest timber.
The Wild Forests Vermont coalition believes the only fair solution to landowners, and the only one that rightfully elevates wild forests to an equal status as logged forests, is to make a new wildlands category open to anyone whose land otherwise qualifies for UVA, regardless of geographic location or other criteria. If you are allowed to enroll in UVA to log your forest, you should also have the option to let your forest grow old. It's that simple.
Please contact the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife today:
Share why you care about wild forests, and why you think it's critical to update the Use Value Appraisal program. Here are some additional things to highlight:
Thank Chair Sheldon and the entire committee for accepting testimony on the many values of wild forests, and for taking action to reform the Use Value Appraisal program.
Amending UVA is a matter of tax equity and landowner rights as well as the right thing to do for the environment. The purpose of the Use Value Appraisal program is to keep Vermont forested. No Vermonter who struggles to afford their taxes should be forced to choose between logging their forests or selling their property.
All Vermont landowners with 25 acres or more of forestland should qualify for a new wild forests category of UVA, regardless of where their property is located or other criteria.
Any landowner who has put a "forever-wild" easement on their property should also be allowed to enroll their land in UVA.
The members of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Fish, and Wildlife can be reached by emailing:
email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for taking action for wild forests!