December 19, 2012
December 19, 2012
Tom Martin, President and CEO of the American Forest Foundation,
said today about the U.S. Forest Service Assessment:
Unless action is taken to reverse the trends predicted by the US Forest Service in a new assessment, we’ll see significant loss of America’s privately owned forests, which should concern every American. Families own more of America’s forests than the federal government and private industry.
Over the next 50 years, 16-34 million acres of forest loss is projected, based on this new assessment. This will mean the loss of all that these forests produce: clean air and water, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and the wood products every American uses every day.
In the South, where the forestry sector supports tens of thousands of rural jobs, the loss will be especially powerful. According to the USFS assessment, roughly 4-8 percent of the region’s forest land base could be lost.
The good news is, Congress and President Obama can do something right now to improve the likelihood that family forest owners can hold on to their land—they can provide estate tax relief to family forest owners. The estate tax, which is currently pending in Congress, can have significant negative impacts on the ability of families to keep forests as forests. More than 50 million acres of private forest land is owned by someone 75 years or older, 170 million by someone 55 years or older.
The need to generate cash to pay estate taxes drives the sale of forests to be developed, causing them to be broken into pieces, or forces the premature harvest of trees. All of these outcomes diminish water quality, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities and the sustainable supply of trees to support forest industry jobs. Every acre of private forestland supports an average of eight good-paying rural jobs.
Since 82 percent of family forest owners make less than $100,000 a year, the burden of estate taxes can be too much for these owners. It’s imperative that the President and Congress recognize the forest fiscal cliff that estate taxes pose to families. An effective solution to stemming the loss of America’s forests is to set the estate tax level at an exclusion rate of $5 million with a 35 percent tax rate, along with additional changes in the Keep the Forest and the Farm in the Family Act (HR 6439) outlined in our report, The Impact of Estate Taxes on Forest Stewardship.
We can reverse these trends the Forest Service is warning us about—but we need action now.
Contact: Amanda Cooke at firstname.lastname@example.org.