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MANAGE FORESTS & LAND
  • FOREST LEGACY: FAQS

    Texas Forest Legacy Program frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):
     + How Does a Landowner Participate?
    Voluntary participation begins with determining if the property falls within the designated legacy area, reading the application guide and filling out the application. Interested landowners are encouraged to discuss their application with any member of the Texas Forest Legacy Committee.
     + Will the State Purchase Property?
    While some states do purchase property through the Forest Legacy Program, the State of Texas intends to only purchase conservation easements from willing landowners.
     + What Is a Conservation Easement?
    A conservation easement is a legal document that restricts development rights. A landowner chooses to convey a conservation easement in order keep the property protected as open space and/or working forests. A conservation easement is a set of property rights and covenants that restricts the use of the property to provide a natural resource conservation benefit and provides for monitoring and enforcement of those covenants by a third-party, usually a land trust or government agency.
     + Can I Change My Mind and Take a Parcel out Of the Program after I’ve Sold the Development Rights?
    No. You may sell the property but the state will continue to hold a permanent easement that will be binding to future landowners. Remember, the goal of the program is to keep forests as forests; flexibility on this point defeats the purpose.
     + Who Should Apply?
    Owners of forestland properties within the designated Forest Legacy Area 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 forests.
     + If I Have Already Sold the Mineral or Gas/Oil Rights to My Property to Someone Else, Can I Place the Property In The Forest Legacy Program?
    This depends on the likelihood that oil or gas mining may occur. Some limited gas wells may be allowable.
     + What Are the Benefits Of The Legacy Program?
    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.

    Community: Permanent greenspace is provided in the community without 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. An easement 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.
     + What Are the Disadvantages Of The Forest Legacy Program?
    Landowner: Permanent commitment to one type of land use for current and future owners.

    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.
     + What Can I Do and Not Do within an Easement Area?
    Under most easements, acceptable uses include: timber harvesting (subject to a Forest Stewardship Plan), firewood cutting, gathering (fruits, roots herbs and mushrooms), hunting, other outdoor recreation (including non-permanent campsites), and production of non-timber forest products.

    Under most easements, unacceptable activities include: all buildings, mining or quarrying that requires surface disturbance, trash or refuse disposal. Construction of a home-site can be acceptable according to the terms of the easement.
     + 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.
     + Does Participation In The Forest Legacy Program Have Any Effect on Other Landholdings I Have Outside the Conservation Easement Area?
    No.
     + 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 Texas A&M 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 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.
     + Will Participation In This Program Make My Property More Likely to Be a Target for Acquisition By the State or Federal Government for Public Land?
    No.
     + Where Does the Money Come from to Buy These Conservation Easements?
    Up to 75 percent of the money comes from the United States Department of Agriculture as part of the Farm Bill. The other 25 percent must come from non-federal sources, either as cash or in-kind contributions from state, municipal or private sources.
     + 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 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 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.
     + Who Decided the Location of the Forest Legacy Area and the Priorities for Projects?
    Texas A&M Forest Service in cooperation with the Texas Forest Legacy Committee, a sub-committee of the State Forest Stewardship Coordinating Committee decided the location for the Forest Legacy Area. The SFSCC is a committee chaired and administered by the state forester made up of a broad-based group of individuals in the natural resources field.
     + What Is the Assessment of Need?
    The U.S. Forest Service requires an Assessment of Need (AON) report by Texas A&M Forest Service that describes the need for Forest Legacy, eligibility criteria and approved Forest Legacy Areas. The AON was developed by TFS in cooperation with the TFLC.
     + When Should Potential Projects Be Submitted?
    Texas A&M Forest Service accepts projects from Jan. 1 through Aug. 31. The TFLC will review the projects in Sept., and rank them based on their ability to satisfy the objectives of the program.
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