« ПретходнаНастави »
the annual tax would not exceed a maximum of 8 to 10 cents an acre. When the timber is cut it pays a forest product tax of six per cent on the yield. As in Connecticut, provision is made for the cutting of wood for personal use without tax. There are other features to these laws, but the above are the essential provisions as regards newly established forests.
One point should however be especially noted: the so-called "commutation tax" in the Massachusetts law. This section of the law is designed to protect the smaller towns that depend for a good share of their revenue on timberland taxation. When land with wood big enough to sell—"woodlot land"—is registered, assessment is made as of 1913, the year the law went into effect, and the owner of the woodland pays annually the same tax as in 1913. The tax is not increased as the timber grows but remains the same. As fast as the timber is cut the commutation tax is proportionately reduced, and when as much has been cut as was on the land when registered, no further tax is collected until the whole stand is cut, when the product or yield tax becomes due. For the period from 1914 to 1939, while owners of forest land are adjusting themselves to the new system, a sliding scale has been devised for the product tax, on lands classed as "woodlots," whereby the tax is increased in five year periods from 1 to 2, 3, 4, and so on up to 6 per cent. The maximum product tax is six per cent in Massachusetts, as against ten per cent in Connecticut. In Vermont it is ten per cent. The Penrsylvania system is somewhat different, but the same general princirle applies, though the law is decidedly different in its wording. We need not go into that here.
STATE COLLECT THE TAX Another way of meeting this trouble of the reduction of revenue in small towns would be one proposed by. Professor Fairchild. It has not been incorporated, so far as I know, in any of these laws, but it would seem to be good as a working hypothesis. The plan he has proposed is this: that the state and not the local community collect the forest tax, and that it (the state) then act as banker, as it were, for the several towns, equalizing the disbursement of the tax money on the basis of area in forest within the several towns, so that no town should suffer.
These, however, are matters of detail. The essential features that I want to emphasize are that under such a forest tax law as is proposed land and timber are taxed separately, the land paying a small annual tax on its value without the trees, the timber paying one tax, and only one, due when the crop is cut.
What bearing has all of this on New York State, and why do I bother you who, for the most part, are owners and operators of mature timber, with questions that frankly deal primarily with the forests of the future? The answer is simple. Most of the members of this Association are interested in the North Woods for more than this year and the next. You have large holdings and expensive plants. Your companies are on a permanent basis. You are interested in a supply for the future, as well as for the immediate present. In other words you would like to come back to the same land again and again for repeated crops. My job as a forester is to help you to do just this. When you cut off the present stand what happens ? The land has to be re-stocked. It may be through natural means; it may be by artificial planting. In either case it will take time to grow trees to merchantable size. You are cooperating with the State in fire protection. Good. But that isn't enough.
Unless your growing forests are taxed justly, the investment will not pay. The time is coming, and that shortly, when all our privately owned forests will be second growth. Shall we or shall we not make provision to raise them so that they will yield a profit? If they are to do so we must provide for a better method of taxation than the general property tax. The question is a vital one in this state, as it is elsewhere. How shall we meet it?
NEED OF LEGISLATION I suggest that this Association appoint a committee to study the problem with the idea of presenting bills to the Legislature that when enacted into law will insure the introduction, in place of our present system, of one tax to be levied on the crop when it is cut. New York has already made a start in the law of 1912. That law must be followed up.
A committee of the New York State Forestry Association is already working on this problem, as your President, Mr. Ostrander, has told you; and President Ostrander is chairman of that committee. It should be easy for the Taxation Committee of the Empire State Forest Products Association to co-operate with this New York State Forestry Association committee. Team play always wins. Working jointly, a bill ought to be got before the Legislature this winter, and, if possible, passed. But that is not all. The law must be tried out. Reform in forest taxation is a new development in this country. Mistakes are likely to be made that will have later to be corrected. We have already seen mistakes,—such as for instance that chapter of the Laws of 1912, to which I have referred,
—which has so much red tape about it that one gets tangled up in it before he has gone more than a few feet. We have seen several mistakes of that sort in our laws. They must be straightened out and simplified. The only way to tell if such a law will work is to try it out. So, as well as helping to get it on the statute books, I believe it will be to the interest of each member of the Association to help put it into effect. Have some of your forest land registered and see how the thing works. If the law is well drawn, as I believe it will be, only slight amendments may be necessary. Anyhow, give it a trial. But first, and right now, let us get the law.
In conclusion, I cannot do better than to quote the closing paragraph in Professor Fairchild's contribution on this matter to the report of the National Conservation Commission published in 1909. It is as follows:
"The tax on yield has many decided advantages. It avoids the evils of the general property tax. It is equitable and certain. It is in harmony with the peculiarities of the business of forestry. Its adoption by the states would remove one obstacle to the perpetuation of the nation's forest resources.” (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: It seems to be very evident to all the members of this Association that this question of taxation is an extremely important one and is becoming increasingly important as our tax burden piles up. Professor Hosmer has given the subject deep study, and he has made some very interesting and useful statements this morning to you. I hope that you will not simply pass them up with the remark that it was an excellent paper but that you will give the subject some very careful thought and try to help those who are trying to get reform on this subject, in their work. It is only through the application of your practical knowledge and the use of your influence—not in a half-hearted way but actively and earnestly—that we are going to make any progress with things of this sort; and it means that you have all got to help.
COMMITTEE ON FOREST TAXATION MR. V. K. KELLOGG: Mr. Chairman, I desire to make a motion. I move, first, that a vote of thanks be extended to Professor Hosmer by this Association, for his most admirable and instructive paper; and second—which is properly contained in the same motion-that a committee of five be appointed by the Chair to co-operate with the committee of the New York State Forestry Association of which President Ostrander is the chairman, in studying, promoting and if possible securing the legislation which ought to prevail.
The FRESIDENT: Is that motion seconded ?
THE PRESIDENT: Gentlemen, you have heard the motion, which has been duly seconded. Now there are many here who are well qualified and able to discuss this subject. The question is now open for discussion and I trust you will take the opportunity to express your views regarding the matter. Mr. Sykes, will you say a few words to us about it?
MR. W. L. SYKES: Mr. President, there are a number of features that are important to discuss on this subject, but I think I will just touch on one. I know of an instance in a neighboring state where a beautiful virgin forest was so over-taxed by the local taxation that the owners were obliged to run their mills day and night to get the timber out of the woods as soon as possible and get their money out of it. If they hadn't done that it would have been all used up in taxes.
I remember that the county papers boasted that they had removed from office in a certain district three commissioners-or certain commissioners—that were willing to allow the low valuations placed on timber lands to stand; and those papers boasted that they now had officers elected that were making the lumbermen pay "their share" of the taxes; and they raised the valuation of sixteen or eighteen dollars an acre, previously fixed as the assessment valuation, up to a hundred dollars an acre—because they went through certain virgin hemlock tracts and said it was worth that and they must pay it. The result was that in two or three years it was a brush-patch and there wasn't enough left on that land to tax.
UNFAIR TAXATION I went to Vermont a year or two after this, where the farmers who were in office were inclined to put the assessed valuation 'way up, and—as this friend has just said, they are honest men but they don't study the problem and don't use good judgment about it, but attempt to raise our taxes where we are getting unproductive lands,-and I placed this argument before them: I said to them, “Gentlemen, if you do what they do in Pennsylvania, raise our taxes simply because you have the power to do it, it will mean we will have to build mills and cut this timber down quick and get our money out of it before it's all eaten up in taxes,—and then you won't have anything left to tax; but if you let our assessment remain as it is it will go on indefinitely and you will have something to tax from year to year, right along.” As a conservation
of the soft woods it takes a larger bulk to make a pound than it does of hardwood, and the hardwoods are responsible for the hardwood grows spontaneously, it re-seeds itself and comes in very thick. There is a possibility that in the fifty years to come, with the increasing cost of coal, there will be an increased demand for on them, we may get something back from the lands in the sale of hardwoods from them for fuel. And so, while we are growing the forests, it is likely to be the case that in the years to come we will have some way to conserve the young trees that should thousands of acres in Pennsylvania that were cut over years ago ten to fifteen cords of chemical wood to the acre, which we called through them to any extent. down there which will be a splendid asset in ten years from now.
proposition, to get an income for the local towns, the longer we encourage the owners of virgin timber to let it stand by imposing only a reasonable taxation, the longer will those towns get income from them. In Pennsylvania, where those forests stood before th ose high taxes were levied—those lands are now all brush, and the farmers are paying all the taxes now. I would like to hear from others as to this matter, and get their ideas. I think it is very important that we encourage those who are willing to lose the interest on their investment by not over-taxing them, even on virgin timber. I heartily agree with the sentiment that on growing timber which is not productive, there should be no tax on that until it is cut.
VALUE OF WOOD FOR FUEL There is one other little suggestion I might make: I have a clipping which I took from a Pennsylvania paper last night in which it states that some of our forestry men from Washington and other places said, touching on the fuel probỊem, that two pounds of dry wood is equal to a pound of coal for fuel purposes. Now it doesn't matter what kind of wood it is; if it is pine or any amount of heat produced. Now up in the northern woods, where hardwoods for fuel to be used in place of coal, and there may then
from some of these lands other than from the mature timber on them; while we are raising mature timber
out and get some little income from the land, as I have suggested, with which to help increase the forests.
We have probably produce, in five or ten years from now,
from entirely cut off when we were there.
The fires haven't gone We have beautiful green forests
be a profit