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NCFS-Home >> Managing Your Forest >> Forest Legacy Frequently Asked Questions

Forest Legacy Frequently Asked Questions

Can the way the forest is managed, and what it is used for, change after it's entered in the Forest Legacy Program?
Yes. As long as the new use is compatible with the long-term sustainability of the forest, the forest stewardship plan can be amended.

Can I build a house, or make other improvements within the easement area?
No. Any part of the property that you may want to use for improvements should be excluded from the easement area at the time the parcel enters the program.

Will a conservation easement keep my property from being taken for a road or utility project?
No. The property is still subject to eminent domain, just as it is now. It is possible that project planners may make more effort to avoid a "conservation property" but that is not guaranteed.

Can I change my mind and take a parcel out of the program after I've sold the development rights?
No. You will have sold a partial ownership of the property for a cash payment. You may sell or dispose of the remaining rights but the state will continue to hold a permanent easement on the property. Remember the goal of the program is to keep forests as forests; flexibility on this point defeats the purpose.

Does participation in the Forest Legacy Program have any effect on other landholdings I have outside the conservation easement area?
No.

Where does the money come from to buy these conservation easements?
Up to 75% of the money comes from the United States Department of Agriculture as part of the Farm Bill. The other 25% must come from non-federal sources, either as cash or in-kind contributions.

What are the benefits of the Legacy Program?

To the landowner:

  • You receive a one-time cash payment for the development rights without having to give up ownership of the property.
  • You can protect your forest from being converted to some other use.
  • You can continue many of the uses of and gain income from the property.
  • You can assure a permanent green space within your community.
  • Most participants will receive some reduction in state, local or federal taxes.

To the Community:

  • Permanent greenspace is provided in the community without totally removing land from the tax base.
  • Forest Legacy properties can continue to provide outdoor recreation opportunities and forest products.
  • Identifying these areas can help area planners determine community growth patterns and future infrastructure and service needs.
  • Allows future generations to enjoy the social and economic benefits of living and working in areas with a vital forest component.
  • These "quality of life" factors are often important in recruiting high-paying, low-impact jobs to a community.

What are the disadvantages of the Forest Legacy Program?

To the Landowner:

  • Permanent commitment to one type of land use for current and future owners.
  • May reduce the potential future selling price of the parcel.

To the Community:

  • The loss of flexibility in future land use planning decisions may be considered a disadvantage.
  • The transfer of development rights to the state may cause a slight decrease in the property tax base, depending on local assessment. This decrease is most likely offset by lack of demand for services from undeveloped property.

Who decided where the Forest Legacy Areas are located?
The State Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee. This is a broad-based committee who are appointed by the State Forester.

What factors were considered in choosing Forest Legacy Areas?
Five categories of factors were considered development risk, forest land, forest patch size, threatened and endangered species habitat and excellent bioclass waters. The State Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee delineated Forest Legacy Areas in North Carolina where they felt acquisition of development rights would be most effective in protecting threatened forest values. The Forest Legacy Program is in favor of sound, well-thought-out development that compliments the maintenance of vital, productive forests.

When was the Forest Legacy Program implemented in North Carolina?
Nomination of parcels by their owners began in early 2001.

Do I have to let the public use the easement area of my property for recreation?
No. You still control access to your property. The only required access is for monitoring by the North Carolina Forest Service. However, if you choose to make your property available for public recreation as part of the easement, its priority for participation in the program may increase, depending on the local situation.

Will participation in this program make my property more likely to be targeted for acquisition by the state or federal government for public land?
No. You will, however, still be able to offer the remaining rights to your property for fee simple purchase as public or private land if you choose. Attempts to acquire it as public land for conservation purposes may actually be less likely because it is already serving conservation purposes.

Is there a size limit for parcels that can be in the program?
Under the North Carolina criteria, a parcel must be large enough to be sustainable as a forest. This varies from area to area but rarely is less than 10 acres. Because of their unique values and scarcity, very large forest ownerships (250+ acres) may receive higher priority than smaller parcels with the same qualities.

How much will Forest Legacy pay for development rights?
The rights to be purchased on each easement will be appraised to determine fair market value. In no circumstances can the program pay more than the appraised value of the rights to be purchased. The landowner can choose to donate the rights or sell them at a bargain price, which provides tax benefits. Development rights may also make up a large portion of the total value of a property in areas with high development pressures but a much lesser part of total value in areas with less development pressure.

What can I do and not do within an easement area?
Under most easements acceptable uses include: timber harvesting, firewood cutting, gathering (fruits, roots herbs and mushrooms), hunting, other outdoor recreation (including non-permanent campsites), and production of non-timber forest produces (maple syrup, vines, etc.) Under most easements unacceptable activities include: all buildings, fencing (except on the perimeter), grazing, mining or quarrying that requires surface disturbance, trash or refuse disposal.

If I have already sold the mineral or gas/oil rights to my property to someone else, can I put the property in the Forest Legacy Program?
No, because this means someone else may already own the right to use all or part of the surface for some use other than forest.

Does a tract of land need to be completely forested?
No, but the land must be at least 80% forested to be eligible. The planting of trees on open land to meet this requirement is acceptable.

Who should apply?
Owners of forestland properties within the designated Forest Legacy Areas will be eligible to apply. Only landowners who are interested in permanently selling their development rights and accept that future use and value of their property will be impacted should apply. Priority will be given to properties that provide environmental benefits and will be maintained as working forest.

When should potential projects be submitted?
North Carolina Forest Service accepts project applications in the spring each year unless otherwise notified. The Forest Legacy Application Review Committee (FLARC) will review the projects, and rank them based on their ability to satisfy the objectives of the program.

How does the appraisal process work?
In order to determine the value of the conservation easement, the property must be appraised by a certified federal appraiser who is in compliance with OMB Bulletin 92-06 and has completed training in application of the December 2000 edition of Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions approved for appraiser continuing education credit in Texas. The appraiser must complete two appraisals: one before the conservation easement is established and one after. Both appraisal reports must be in compliance with the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions.

The property then must undergo an appraisal review, also by an appraiser who meets the qualifications above. The qualified review appraiser must prepare a technical appraisal review report that includes a determination of whether the appraisal report under review complies with the Uniform Appraisal Standards for Federal Land Acquisitions. The value of the easement is determined by calculating the difference between the "before appraisal" and "after appraisal."

How much will Forest Legacy pay for development rights?
The rights to be purchased on each easement will be appraised to determine by fair market value. Under no circumstances can the program pay more than the appraised value of the rights to be purchased. The landowner can choose to donate the rights or sell them at a bargain price, which may provide tax benefits. The fair market value of an easement is the difference between the property's value "before" the easement (the unrestricted property) and the property's value "after" an easement (the restricted property). Development rights may also make up a large portion of the total value of a property in areas with high development pressures but a much lesser part of total value in areas with less development pressure.

For more information about the Forest Legacy Program, or to receive an application, contact:

Forest Stewardship/Legacy Coordinator Les Hunter
N.C. Forest Service
1616 Mail Service Center Raleigh, NC 27699-1616
(919) 857-4833

 
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This page updated: Monday, November 14, 2011 9:31