Greenfield Recorder

A new program begins for forest property owners

Apr. 16, 2018

Land owners wondering how to protect their wooded property while continuing to benefit from sustainable timber harvests now have another option: the New England Forestry Foundation of Littleton, Mass.

Private forest owners can receive lifetime income while ensuring permanent protection for their forests through the foundation’s responsible management and its Pooled Timber Income Fund, according to fund managers.

Participants donate their woodlands to the foundation, and the timber on it contributes to a pooled income fund from which donors receive an even stream of lifetime income and an initial charitable tax deduction. On the death of all beneficiaries, the timber reverts to the foundation, and the donor’s lands become part of the foundation’s network of more than 140 community forests.

The New England Forestry Foundation does its own forest management plan for how it oversees the property, emphasizing sustainable forestry practices.

With more than 140 donated properties around New England, the fund continues to pay local property taxes on the land, since it continues to generate income for donors, according to program director Sophie Traficonte.

“It’s a really great tool for people who want to conserve their land, but really can’t afford to do that,” she said. “They get this income over time, and the tax deduction initially. I think it will really be a good incentive for people. They won’t even have to pay land taxes anymore, because we’re owning it, so we’ll do that.”

Land that has been placed in the state’s Chapter 61A reduced assessment program remains in that program.

The New England Forestry Foundation has leased timber from two Nature Conservancy preserves in Massachusetts for inclusion in the pool, in Sheffield and Middlefield, totaling nearly 300 acres. Both demonstrate how conservation and good forestry can work hand in hand, said program officials.

The foundation owns forests in Heath, Rowe, Conway, Buckland, Hawley, Deerfield, Warwick and Orange in Franklin County.