Ohio Forest Tax Law
Eligibility and Requirements
OFTL is administered by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry, according to the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Administrative Code. In exchange for the tax reduction conferred by Ohio’s forest property tax laws, landowners agree to manage their forest land for the commercial production of timber and other forest products and to abide by pertinent rules and regulations.
If you would like to find out more about OFTL, contact your local service forester. A directory of service foresters can be found on the Division’s website www.ohiodnr.gov/forestry
. Or, you may contact Ohio Forest Tax Law Coordinator Mark Wilthew at 440-632-5299 (or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
According to the Ohio Administrative Code, “forest land” is defined as:
“Land for which the primary purpose is the growing, managing and harvesting of a merchantable forest product of commercial species under accepted silvicultural systems through natural or artificial reforestation methods and for which there is an approved forest management plan. The forest land shall consist of a stand or stands of commercial species of forest trees which contain at least fifty square feet of basal area or at least three hundred stems per acre which shall be evenly distributed throughout the stand.”
Eligibility of Forestland
If your forestland meets that definition, it may be eligible for certification under OFTL. Requirements for certification are:
- A tract of forestland must be at least ten (10.0) contiguous acres and no less than one hundred twenty (120) feet wide. Deductions are made for the following non-qualifying acreage:
o Homesites and other building sites
o Streams, rivers, roads, and utility and railroad rights-of-way more than 120 feet wide
o Lakes and ponds greater than one acre (1.0) in size
- Non-forested strips more than 120 feet wide are considered a break in the contiguity of forestland. Areas of forestland on each side of that break will be considered for eligibility separately.
- Forestland must be accessible for management.
- Forest plantations are eligible for certification after at least one full calendar yearas long as they include at least 300 living trees per acre of commercial species such as oak, hickory, maple, beech, cherry, walnut, yellow-poplar, pine, and so on.
- Commercial orchards and Christmas tree plantations do not qualify as forestland under OFTL. (They may be eligible under CAUV.)
- Property boundary lines and/or forestland boundary lines must be marked and those markings must be continuously maintained. Any of the following ways of marking boundary lines is acceptable:
o Blazing of trees with paint
o Installation of posts or stakes
o Installation of a fence (an existing well-constructed fence qualifies)
- If the landowner uses paint, posts, or stakes, marks or markers must be no farther than sixty-six feet apart. Stakes or posts must have a height of at least four and one half feet above the ground. The use of flagging, ribbon, or surveyor’s tape is not an acceptable way to mark boundary lines.
- If the landowner has cut or removed a merchantable forest product during the three years prior to the time of application, that cutting or removal must have been accomplished under an approved forest management plan or as part of an acceptable silvicultural practice.
Forest Management Plans
In order to qualify for OFTL, landowners must have a written plan to guide them in the management of their forestland, a plan prepared or approved by a service forester working for the Ohio Division of Forestry. Landowners are required to follow the provisions of their forest management plan. At least once every five years, a service forester will examine certified forestland to ensure compliance with the plan and with other requirements under OFTL.
The Ohio Administrative Code defines a “forest management plan” as:
“A written document establishing direction and goals for the management of a specific forest land area. If not prepared by the division, the document must be developed by a professional consulting forester. The plan will specify all silvicultural practices and activities necessary to accomplish the merchantable production of a forest product, all practices that will minimize adverse environmental effects and will include but not be limited to the elements described in rule 1501:3-10-04 [i.e., location, description, map, management schedule, etc.].”
In order to have their land certified under OFTL and to continue with that certification, landowners must:
Declare that their forestland will be devoted exclusively to forestry with a primary objective of timber production and may include its allied fields of maple syrup production, wildlife conservation, recreation, aesthetics, etc., where these do not interfere with the productivity of the forest.
Establish and maintain property boundary line and/or forest boundary line markings according to OFTL standards.
Demonstrate their intent to engage in management by successfully completing a prescribed silvicultural activity prior to certification.
Follow the forest management plan prepared for their property.
Before cutting timber, submit a silvicultural operation and management (O&M) plan, now called a timber harvest notice of intent (NOI) and timber harvest plan, with their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) office and with their service forester. Landowners can request a blank copy of the form from their local SWCD or service forester.
When cutting timber, use a logger certified by the Ohio Forestry Association (OFA) as a master logger. A list of OFA Master Loggers can be found on the OFA website or by a link on the Division of Forestry’s website.
During and at the close of logging operations, implement best management practices (BMPs) to prevent or reduce erosion, sedimentation, and water pollution.
Protect their forestland from livestock.
To the best of their ability, protect their forestland from fires.
Attend eight hours of forestry training, approved by the Chief of the Division of Forestry, within five years of certification of their forestland. Six hours of that training must be from a workshop entitled “Introduction to Woodland Management and Ohio’s Forest Tax Law.” The course is offered at least once annually in different locations throughout the state. The remaining two hours of forestry training can include forestry workshops, woodland steward programs, forestry field days, woodland owner meetings, etc.
Comply with all laws, rules, and regulations promulgated by the Chief, which are used in the administration of Sections 5713.22 through 5713.26 of the Ohio Revised Code. See the Ohio Administrative Code Sections 1501: 3-10-01 through 3-10-07 for more details.
Affirm their understanding that:
o When certified forestland is divided or split into two or more ownerships, certification is cancelled.
o When ownership of certified forestland changes through sale, deed transfer, or any other means, certification is cancelled except that an ownership change to effect the transfer of a certified property as a result of the death of the owner to their spouse shall not result in cancellation of certification upon the affirmation by the surviving spouse to the original agreement terms (FT-7) and forest management plan.
o When certified forestland or any part thereof is converted to a use other than that of the commercial production of timber and other forest products (such as the construction of a house or other building, conversion to pasture, etc.), certification is cancelled.
4. During his or her visit, the service forester will examine your property to see if it is eligible for certification. If your forestland qualifies, you must demonstrate your intent to engage in managementby completing a prescribed forestry practice. Practices commonly required include grapevine control, cutting cull trees, or controlling non-native, invasive plant species.
5. After you have successfully completed your prescribed forestry practice, your service forester or other qualified professional forester will prepare a forest stewardship management plan for your property.
6. Your service forester will send you a copy of your forest stewardship management plan (unless provided to you by another qualified professional forester), and three copies of the Ohio Forest Tax Law agreement form (FT-7). All three copies of the agreement form must be signed by the person or persons whose names are recorded on the deed exactly as those names appear on the deed. You must also sign the cover page to your forest stewardship management plan.
7. Return all three copies of the signed agreement form, the signed cover page(s) of your forest stewardship management plan, and a $50 non-refundable application fee (checks only) to your service forester for processing. Make your check payable to the Ohio Division of Forestry.
8. Upon receipt of signed agreement forms, the signed cover page(s), and the application fee, your service forester will submit your application package to the Chief of the Division of Forestry for approval. The Chief will then issue a Certificate of Classification (DNR 4482) to your County Auditor, with copies to you and to your service forester.