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Amendment 1 targets major threat to forests
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Editor, Georgia voters who care about the future of Georgia’s forests should vote “yes” on Amendment 1 when they go to the polls Nov. 4.
Our forests are threatened by more than southern pine beetles, disastrous wildfires and urban sprawl. Rapidly escalating property taxes are making it more difficult to keep land in forests. When forests disappear, so do the industries and jobs they support and the numerous environmental benefits they deliver free of charge - clean water, pure air and abundant wildlife habitat, to name a few.
Recently, a landowner in southwest Georgia reported that an acquaintance who owns 4,000 acres of forest land that have been in his family for 50 years is considering selling because of property taxes. His own property, reported this landowner, has just experienced a reassessment resulting in a 331 percent increase in fair market value. Managing land as forests quickly becomes unattractive if not impossible under these circumstances, and landowners across the state are experiencing the same problem. It is hard to imagine a property owner having to sell his land because of an inability to pay property taxes.
Passage of Amendment 1 will implement the Forest Land Protection Act of 2008, passed almost unanimously by the Georgia legislature earlier this year. Simply put, this measure will create a conservation-friendly property tax program for contiguous forest properties of 200 acres or more in exchange for a commitment to keep the land in trees for at least 15 years. Failure to keep this commitment will trigger severe monetary penalties to the landowner.
In order to protect the revenues of local governments, legislators required the state to reimburse counties for most if not all of the revenue loss resulting from the enrollment of forests in the program. Amendment 1 creates a “Constitutional mandate” that these refunds be made to counties that experience a significant tax loss as a result of the program.
Forests use very few of the local government services that they are paying for with these escalating taxes. Keeping forests under the stewardship of private landowners is far better than the state purchasing land for conservation, taking it completely off the tax rolls and then spending budget dollars to help maintain it year after year.
Amendment 1 will slow the conversion of our forests to non-forest uses and will increase the chances that owners of large, contiguous forests can resist development pressures. This historic conservation measure will restore a sense of fairness to a property tax system that is a disincentive to growing trees.
Our property tax system was created for another time in another Georgia. It is outdated and threatens the preservation of our most valuable natural resource - our forests. When you vote, say “yes” to Georgia’s forests - say “yes” to Amendment 1. For more information, go to or

Steven McWilliams
Georgia Forestry Commission executive vice president
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