§ 2601 Commercial forest plantation.
(a) A commercial forest plantation within the meaning and purpose of this chapter is a contiguous area of land of not less than 10 acres upon which the owner proposes to develop and maintain a forest either through planting or natural reproduction or both, to produce timber, pulpwood, poles, sawtimber or other wood products. Such land shall at the time of listing as a commercial forest plantation actually carry sufficient forest growth of suitable character and so distributed as to give reasonable assurance that a stand of merchantable timber will develop therefrom, as determined by the State Forester. The intent and purpose of this section is to exclude from classification as a commercial forest plantation land planted as a nursery, as an orchard, or for ornamental purposes.
(b) Any landowner who establishes a commercial forest plantation, as defined in this chapter, and otherwise complies with this chapter shall be entitled to a 30-year exemption from county property taxes on such plantation.
§ 2602 Application for exemption; requirements; examination.
Any owner of a commercial forest plantation may make application to the Department of Agriculture to have such land listed for tax exemption. In making such application, such owner shall file with the Department of Agriculture a sworn statement of compliance with this chapter together with the location, description and acreage of the planted lands or the naturally reforested lands. Additionally, all applications for tax exemption must be accompanied by a forest management plan approved by the State Forester. The Department of Agriculture, upon receipt of such application, shall direct the State Forester to make or cause to be made a thorough examination of the property described in the application and report the findings to the Department of Agriculture.
§ 2603 Removal of exempt commercial forest plantation from county assessment books.
If the Department determines from the report of the State Forester that the owner has complied with the purpose of this chapter, namely, to develop and maintain upon the owner's land a commercial forest, the Department shall recommend to the assessment board in the county wherein the lands are situated that the enrolled forested lands be removed from the list of assessable property for the period of 30 years, and thereupon the enrolled forested property shall be removed from the list of assessable property for the exemption period, except as provided in this chapter. An owner that maintains a commercial forest plantation in compliance with this chapter for 30 years may reapply for county tax exemption on the plantation in accordance with § 2603 of this title. This will constitute a new 30-year period of tax exemption on the plantation.
§ 2604 Voluntary withdrawal of land from exempt status; requirements.
Any owner of land listed as commercial forest plantation desiring to withdraw said land from operation of this chapter shall make written application to the Department of Agriculture for such withdrawal. Such application shall be granted only upon evidence that the owner has paid to the county treasurer the amount of tax due on said land as determined by the county board of assessment. The board of assessment shall determine the average value per year of the lands, notwithstanding Chapter 83 of Title 9, during the current period of exemption from taxation and, further, shall determine the amount of tax due on the lands calculated according to the several yearly tax rates at the average valuation. Upon presentation to the Department of Agriculture of the application as provided in this section, the Department of Agriculture shall at once notify the county board of assessment of such action and thereupon the property described in the application shall be removed from classification and thereafter taxed as other property.
§ 2605 Restrictions on use of timber.
The owner of any land listed under this chapter may fell and use any dead or injured timber and also cut and remove any live trees when such have been marked for removal with the approval and under the supervision of the Department of Agriculture.
§ 2606 Inspections.
The State Forester shall make periodic inspections of classified forest plantations and shall report the findings in writing to the Department of Agriculture. If the State Forester finds that the owner of listed lands has violated this chapter or has neglected or refused to take proper precautions against damage by fire or grazing, or otherwise, the State Forester shall recommend to the Department the removal of said property from classification as commercial forest plantation land.
§ 2607 Removal of lands from exempt status by Department; notice; hearing; appeal.
(a) If the State Forester recommends the removal of any lands from classification as commercial forest land, the Department of Agriculture shall notify the owner of the time and place of hearing upon such recommendation, which shall not be less than 10 days from the date of notice. The owner of the lands shall be entitled to be heard before the Department in person or by attorney and shall be allowed to present any pertinent evidence. The Department shall thereupon determine the matter and shall either approve or disapprove the recommendation of the State Forester. If the recommendation of the State Forester is approved by the Department, the Department shall notify the county board in writing of assessment thereof, and the board of assessment shall immediately restore the lands to the assessment lists. The board shall also determine the amount of tax due upon the lands, notwithstanding Chapter 83 of Title 9, according to the average valuation of the lands at the tax rates prevailing during the current period of exemption. The total amount of taxes as calculated shall be certified to the receiver of taxes and county treasurer of the county for collection as other taxes are collected, but with no penalty attached thereto.
(b) The owner of such lands may appeal from the decision of the Department to the Superior Court of the county by filing with the Prothonotary a certified copy of the recommendation of the State Forester as filed with the Department and the determination of the Department with respect thereto. The certification shall be made by the State Forester. Such appeal shall be filed within 2 terms next after the determination of the matter by the Department, or the right of appeal shall be lost.
(c) Prior to the sale or other transfer of rights of land or perpetual timber rights subject to an approved forest management plan, the transferor of land shall notify the transferee of the existence and nature of the plan and the transferee shall sign a notice of forest management obligation indicating the transferee's knowledge thereof.
(1) The notice shall be on a form furnished by the Department of Agriculture Forest Service and shall be sent to the Department of Agriculture by the transferor at the time of sale or transfer of rights of land or perpetual timber rights.
(2) If the transferor fails to notify the transferee about the forest management obligation, the board of assessment shall immediately restore the lands to the assessment lists. The board shall also determine the amount of tax due upon the lands according to the average valuation of the lands at the tax rates prevailing during the period of exemption. The total amount of taxes as calculated shall be certified to the receiver of taxes and county treasurer of the county for collection as other taxes are collected, but with no penalty attached thereto. All taxes due for the period of exemption shall be assessed to the transferor.
(3) Failure by the transferor to send the required notice to the Department of Agriculture at the time of the sale shall be prima facie evidence that the transferor did not notify the buyer of the forest management obligation prior to sale.