Articles

“Sustaining Sustainable Forestry”


George Fullerton

New Brunswick Community Land Trust

June 2003

There are many different approaches to sustainable forest management planning that maintain ecological function while simultaneously generating forest products in a balanced and economically positive fashion. There is no one best way to devise and deliver a definitive sustainable forest management plan. Each plan is dependant on the individual forest’s structure and productivity, and the economic and personal demands of the owner.

Despite the best of intentions, sustainable management, in most cases, is only good for the life of the owner, be that an individual or a corporation. When the
current owner sells the woodland or passes it on to the next generation, the plan is subject to change depending on the goals and objectives of the new owner.

One of the principles that lead to the establishment of the New Brunswick Community Land Trust (NBCLT) was to provide a system by which an owner could establish a legally binding mechanism that would clearly define the principles of sustainable land management that future owners of the land would be bound to follow. NBCLT is currently working on several “Trust” agreements with landowners that will establish sustainable management principles that future owners of the particular lands will be required to follow. NBCLT as holder of trust agreements will be legally bound to ensure that current and future owners of the property follow the sustainable management principles contained in the Trust agreement.

New Brunswick Community Land Trust was formed in 1995 to offer farmland and woodland owners the opportunity to limit or restrict certain land use practices on the land through land Trust mechanisms. The small group of individuals that helped to establish NBCLT saw rural lands being transferred to industrial holdings, increasingly being managed by industrial methods and as such, contributing less to rural economy. They felt that offering trust mechanisms to limit unsustainable land use practices would ensure that rural land would remain available for production and continue to contribute to local rural economy.

In 1998, the New Brunswick government passed legislation allowing non-profits to hold conservation easements (CE) on land that would limit identified land
use practices.

Through the late 1990’s and into the early 2000’s, NBCLT continued to function but did not launch any land projects. In 2002, NBCLT gained seed funding from the Environmental Trust Fund and hired staff to initiate work on a conservation easement on a working woodlot. Marc Spence and Ghita Levin became the first woodlot owners in New Brunswick to move forward to develop a conservation easement that focused on maintaining a sustainable harvest level as the foundation of their conservation easement.

Ghita and Marc have for many years been managing their woodlots toward restoration of forest species and conditions, similar to the Acadian forest, pre European settlement. They wish to have NBCLT hold a conservation easement on their land that specifically outlines management practices that will be followed by
the current and subsequent owners of the land, to continue to work toward and maintain desired forest structure.

Ghita and Marc’s woodland will soon become Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified and they proceeded to develop the draft language of their easement using FSC guidelines. FSC guidelines limits annual harvesting to a sustainable level and also incorporates a number of ecological and social values relating to
woodlot management.

The Conservation Easement will also restrict or limit management practices on farmland contained in their property and also restrict other building and development activities. These land use restrictions, in effect, reduce the commercial real estate value of the property, and is considered by the tax laws as giving away a value.

In order to calculate the value of the Conservation Easement and gain the tax credit that it provides, the property is being appraised to determine the value of the Conservation Easement. Essentially, there will be two appraisals: the first appraisal will determine the current commercial real estate value from the perspective of a timber hog and real estate developer. The second appraisal considers the land use restrictions imposed by the Conservation Easement.

Once the values are determined, NBCLT will issue a receipt for the difference that the owners can then use as a donation on their income tax return. Current
laws require that the owners use the donation consideration within five years of finalizing the CE.

The second project initiated by NBCLT in 2002 was a land acquisition of a uniquely managed woodland and certified organic farm operation. The owners, Susan Tyler and Clark Phillips, are of retirement age and have no one in their families interested in taking over the operation. The owners fear that if the property is put on the real estate market it will subsequently be sold, clear cut and subdivided into recreation lots. The owners have proposed to sell the property in trust to NBCLT with agreement that the current woodlot management regime continue and with the preference to lease the organic farming operation.

It is interesting that both the Levin/Spence and the Tyler/Phillips projects each have identified a portion of their properties that they have designated no-cut, “wild forever”, to protect the unique features contained in the identified areas.

The third land project undertaken was with an elderly landowner who wanted to donate a working woodlot to an organization that would manage the land as productive woodlot through low impact forest management practices, and also provide visual screening for neighbors and maintain the landscape integrity of the watershed.

NBCLT will work with the landowner to determine the details of her vision of sustainable management, and help establish guidelines for a local management committee to oversee management of the property. This property may also provide some income to NBCLT to maintain stewardship of this property and to help launch other trust projects.

Is NBCLT the answer for perpetuating sustainable forest management on woodlands? Yes, for some individuals who are looking for certain confidence that land remains in a productive state through time. Yes, for land owners who might wish to restrict ecologically unsustainable practices.

NBCLT continues to focus on bringing these initial projects to completion; meanwhile, there is a growing list of woodlot owners considering conservation for their woodlots. NBCLT invites anyone interested in working land conservation to contact the organization for more information and to consider becoming a member and support this important work.

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