Forestry remains one of the largest industries in Oregon. Our state is the largest softwood lumber producer in the United States. Forests cover nearly 50% of Oregon’s land, and about half of that is managed as national forest zones. Forestland in Oregon is defined by statute and includes 19 western counties: Benton, Clackamas, Clatsop, Columbia, Coos, Curry, Douglas, Hood River, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Tillamook, Washington, and Yamhill. There are several eastern counties with a similar designation. Landowners of small properties in these counties can help contribute to the state’s economy and receive financial benefits through Oregon’s Forestland Program.
There are two classifications of land within Oregon’s Forestland Program: “highest and best use” and “designated.” There are two very different methods for determining each of these statuses. In order to be designated as forestland, the primary purpose of the land must be to grow and harvest trees–even if the landowner also uses the land for other concurrent uses. If a property owner isn’t yet using the land to grow and harvest trees because they want to make sure it can be designated as such first, the landowner can submit a written plan for stocking the land with sufficient trees within a five-year period.
Highest and Best Use
County assessors evaluate properties to identify lots that can most optimally be used for growing timber and forest products. Determination is based on the assessor’s judgment, and there is no need for a landowner to apply for the assessment.
Even if a property owner doesn’t have property within a “highest and best use” zone, they can apply to the county assessor’s office for a “designated” status within Oregon’s Forestland Program. The land must be held or used for the predominant purpose of growing and harvesting trees of a marketable species. The minimum acreage to qualify is only two concurrent acres, making this opportunity viable for many rural property owners.
What are “marketable species?”
Since this designation aims to help Oregon’s forestry industry prosper, the types of trees grown on the property must be in demand. The types of trees considered “marketable” may change depending on the location and current demand but generally include: Douglas fir, western hemlock, Sitka spruce, red cedar, grand fir, red alder, and big leaf maple.
You can find more detailed information about the requirements and application process on the State of Oregon website.
What are the financial benefits of owning property designated as forestland?
Landowners with property designated as forestland may realize financial benefits via tax deferral or tax reduction programs. Anyone interested in this aspect should consult with a professional tax advisor to determine what advantages and disadvantages may apply to their specific situations. The Oregon Small Woodlands Association has general information about possible tax advantages on its website.
Learn more about land use possibilities for your property at Richard Stevens & Associates.
If you own or are planning to purchase rural property in Southern Oregon, it’s essential to consult with professionals who can walk you through all of the land use issues you need to consider. At Richard Stevens & Associates, we specialize in assisting our clients with obtaining rural and urban land use permits. We can help you consider the pros and cons of different properties so you’ll feel confident about your final decision. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you bring your dream home to life.