Connecticut Seal

Substitute House Bill No. 5588

Public Act No. 04-115

AN ACT CONCERNING FORESTRY MANAGEMENT.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. Section 23-20 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2004):

The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall administer the statutes relating to forestry and the protection of forests. [He] The commissioner may employ such field and office assistants as may be necessary for the execution of his or her duties. [He] The commissioner may, from time to time, publish the forestry laws of the state and other literature of general interest and practical value pertaining to forestry. [He] The commissioner may enter into cooperation with departments of the federal government for the promotion of forest resource management and protection within the state. [He] The commissioner may, with the assistance of the State Forester, develop and administer plans for the protection and management of publicly-owned woodlands. Such plans shall include, but not be limited to proposals for the establishment of forest plantations and the marketing of forest products. [He] The commissioner may apply to have publicly-owned woodlands or products from such woodlands certified or licensed under one or more of the following, provided the commissioner uses private funding from gifts, donations or bequests, as authorized in this section, for the cost of all such applications: (1) The sustainable Forestry Initiative Program, (2) the American Tree Farm System, (3) the Canadian Standards Association's Sustainable Management System Standards, (4) the Finnish Standard, (5) the Forest Stewardship Council, (6) the Pan-European Forest Certification Program, (7) the Swedish Standards, (8) the United Kingdom Woodland Assurance Scheme, or (9) the Smart Wood Program, as administered by the Rainforest Alliance. The commissioner shall implement any sustainable forestry practice necessary for such certification or licensure. The commissioner may accept, on behalf of the Department of Environmental Protection, any gifts, donations or bequests for the purposes of applying for and obtaining such certification or licensure. The commissioner may harvest forest products from woodlands owned by the state and take such other measures as he or she deems necessary for their efficient management and protection, may sell wood, timber and other products from any state woodlands whenever he or she deems such sales desirable and may develop recreational facilities in the woodlands managed by the Department of Environmental Protection. [He] The commissioner shall charge no less than ten dollars per cord for any such wood or timber sold as fuel. [He] The commissioner may rent state forest property and buildings thereon under his or her jurisdiction for a period not exceeding twenty-five years, provided any lease for such property and building for a term of more than ten years shall be subject to the review and approval of the State Properties Review Board. The proceeds of such sales, rentals and any receipts resulting from management of the state forests, or from reimbursements from other state departments or state institutions, shall be deposited in the General Fund in accordance with the provisions of section 4-32, provided the amount of annual proceeds in excess of eight hundred seventy-five thousand dollars derived from the sale of wood, timber and other products from publicly-owned woodlands shall be deposited in the Conservation Fund, as established in section 22a-27h. Expenditures incurred by the commissioner for the protection, management and development of the forests, the preparation and marketing of forest products and the acquisition of land for the extension and completion of the state forests as provided in section 23-21 shall be paid with moneys appropriated from the General Fund. The provisions of this section shall not apply to land owned or managed by the state on which forest resource management measures may be restricted by deed, statute, or incompatible use. As used in this section, woodland means land owned or managed by a state agency and stocked with forest tree species not less than six hundred stems per acre and at least one year old.

Sec. 2. Section 12-107b of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

When used in sections 12-107a to 12-107e, inclusive, as amended:

[(a)] (1) The term "farm land" means any tract or tracts of land, including woodland and wasteland, constituting a farm unit;

[(b)] (2) The term "forest land" means any tract or tracts of land aggregating twenty-five acres or more in area bearing tree growth [in such quantity and so spaced as to constitute in the opinion of the State Forester a forest area and maintained in the opinion of the State Forester in a state of proper forest condition and such land consists] that conforms to the forest stocking, distribution and condition standards established by the State Forester pursuant to subsection (a) of section 12-107d, as amended by this act, and consisting of [(1)] (A) one tract of land of twenty-five or more contiguous acres, which acres may be in contiguous municipalities, [(2)] (B) two or more tracts of land aggregating twenty-five acres or more in which no single component tract shall consist of less than ten acres, or [(3)] (C) any tract of land which is contiguous to a tract owned by the same owner [which] and has been [designated as forest land by the State Forester, provided land designated by the State Forester as forest land in accordance with section 12-107d prior to July 1, 1976, shall not be subject to the provisions of subdivisions (1) to (3), inclusive, of this subsection] classified as forest land pursuant to this section;

[(c)] (3) The term "open space land" means any area of land, including forest land, land designated as wetland under section 22a-30 and not excluding farm land, the preservation or restriction of the use of which would [(1)] (A) maintain and enhance the conservation of natural or scenic resources, [(2)] (B) protect natural streams or water supply, [(3)] (C) promote conservation of soils, wetlands, beaches or tidal marshes, [(4)] (D) enhance the value to the public of abutting or neighboring parks, forests, wildlife preserves, nature reservations or sanctuaries or other open spaces, [(5)] (E) enhance public recreation opportunities, [(6)] (F) preserve historic sites, or [(7)] (G) promote orderly urban or suburban development;

[(d)] (4) The word "municipality" means any town, consolidated town and city, or consolidated town and borough;

[(e)] (5) The term "planning commission" means a planning commission created pursuant to section 8-19, as amended;

[(f)] (6) The term "plan of conservation and development" means a plan of development, including any amendment thereto, prepared or adopted pursuant to section 8-23, as amended;

(7) The term "certified forester" means a practitioner certified as a forester pursuant to section 23-65h.

Sec. 3. Section 12-107d of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective July 1, 2004):

(a) Not later than June 1, 2006, the Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall adopt regulations, in accordance with the provisions of chapter 54, regarding standards for forest stocking, distribution and conditions and procedures for evaluation by a certified forester of land proposed for classification as forest land. Standards and procedures regarding forest stocking, distribution and conditions and procedures for evaluation by a certified forester of land proposed for classification as forest land shall be implemented by the State Forester while the commissioner is in the process of establishing such regulations, provided notice of intent to adopt the regulations is published not later than twenty days after the date of implementation. The standards and procedures implemented by the State Forester shall be valid until June 1, 2006, or until regulations are adopted, whichever date is earlier.

(b) A certified forester may evaluate land proposed for classification as forest land and attest to the qualifications of such land for classification as forest land, provided such certified forester has satisfactorily completed training by and obtained a certificate from the State Forester or his or her designee related to policies and standards for evaluating land proposed for classification as forest land and, in the opinion of the State Forester, the certified forester acts in conformance with such policies and standards.

[(a)] (c) An owner of land [may file a written application with the State Forester for its designation by the State Forester as forest land. When such application has been made, the State Forester shall examine such application and, if the State Forester] seeking classification of such land as forest land shall employ a certified forester to examine the land to determine if it conforms to forest stocking, distribution and condition standards established by the State Forester pursuant to subsection (a) of this section. If the certified forester determines that [it is forest land, said] such land conforms to such standards, such forester shall issue a [triplicate certificate designating it as such, and file one copy of such certificate in the State Forester's office, furnish one to the owner of the land and file one in the office of the assessor of the municipality in which the land is located] report to the owner of the land pursuant to subsection (g) of this section and retain one copy of the report.

(d) Fees charged by a certified forester for services to examine land and determine if said land conforms to the standards of forest stocking, distribution and condition established by the State Forester shall not be contingent upon or otherwise influenced by the classification of the land as forest land or the failure of such land to qualify for said classification.

[(b) When the State Forester finds that it is no longer forest land, the State Forester shall issue a triplicate certificate canceling the designation of such land as forest land, and file one copy of such certificate in the State Forester's office, furnish one to the owner of the land and file one in the office of such assessor. ]

(e) Upon termination of classification as forest land, the assessor of the municipality in which the land is located shall issue a notice of cancellation and provide a copy of such notice to the owner of the land and to the office of the assessor of any other municipality in which the owner's land is classified as forest land.

[(c)] (f) An owner of land [designated as forest land by the State Forester] may apply for its classification as forest land on any grand list of a municipality by filing a written application for such classification accompanied by a copy of the certified forester's report described in subsection (g) of this section with the assessor thereof not earlier than thirty days before or later than thirty days after the assessment date and, if the [State Forester has not cancelled the designation] assessor determines that the use of such land as forest land has not changed as of a date at or prior to the assessment date such assessor shall classify such land as forest land and include it as such on the grand list, provided in a year in which a revaluation of all real property in accordance with section 12-62 becomes effective such application may be filed not later than ninety days after such assessment date in such year.

[(d) An application to the State Forester for designation of land as forest land shall be made upon a form prescribed by the State Forester and approved by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and shall set forth a description of the land and such other information as the State Forester may require to aid in determining whether such land qualifies for such designation. ]

(g) A report issued by a certified forester pursuant to subsection (c) of this section shall be on a form prescribed by the State Forester and shall set forth a description of the land, a description of the forest growth upon the land, a description of forest management activities recommended to be undertaken to maintain the land in a state of proper forest condition and such other information as the State Forester may require as measures of forest stocking, distribution and condition and shall include the name, address and certificate number of the certified forester and a signed, sworn statement that the certified forester has determined that the land proposed for classification conforms to the standards of forest stocking, distribution and condition established by the State Forester. An application to an assessor for classification of land as forest land shall be made upon a form prescribed by such assessor and approved by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and shall set forth a description of the land and the date of the issuance of the certified forester's report and a statement of the potential liability for tax under the provisions of sections 12-504a to 12-504e, inclusive. The certified forester's report shall be attached to and made a part of such application.

[(e)] (h) Failure to file an application for classification of land as forest land within the time limit prescribed in subsection [(c)] (f) of this section and in the manner and form prescribed in subsection [(d)] (g) of this section shall be considered a waiver of the right to such classification on such assessment list.

(i) The municipality within which land proposed for classification as forest land is situated or the owner of such land may appeal to the State Forester for a review of the findings of the certified forester as issued in the certified forester's report. Such appeal shall be filed with the State Forester not later than thirty business days after the issuance of the report and shall be brought by petition in writing. The State Forester shall review the report of the certified forester and any information the certified forester relied upon in developing his or her findings and may gather additional information at his or her discretion. The State Forester shall render the results of his or her review of the certified forester's report not later than sixty calendar days after the appeal was filed.

[(f) The municipality within which land designated as forest land by the State Forester is situated or the owner of land which the State Forester has refused to designate as such may appeal from the decision of the State Forester to the superior court for the judicial district within which such municipality is situated. Such appeal shall be taken within thirty days after the issuance of the certificate designating such land as forest land or the refusal to issue such certificate, as the case may be, and shall be brought by petition in writing with proper citation signed by competent authority to the adverse party at least twelve days before the return day. The Superior Court shall have the same powers with respect to such appeals as are provided in the general statutes with respect to appeals from boards of assessment appeals. ]

[(g)] (j) An owner of land aggrieved by the denial of any application to the assessor of a municipality for classification of land as forest land shall have the same rights and remedies for appeal and relief as are provided in the general statutes for taxpayers claiming to be aggrieved by the doings of assessors or boards of assessment appeals.

(k) During the month of June each year the assessor of a municipality within which land classified as forest land is situated shall report to the State Forester, in a format prescribed by the State Forester, the total number of owners of land classified as farm land, forest land or open space land as of the most recent grand list and a listing of the parcels of land so classified showing the acreage of each parcel, the total acreage of all such parcels, the number of acres of each parcel classified as farm land, forest land or open space land, and the total acreage for all such parcels.

Approved May 21, 2004