Landowners across the state are facing increasing property taxes which can make it difficult to maintain the land as undeveloped. The State’s current use programs (Ch. 61, 61A, and 61B) offer an opportunity to reduce property taxes in return for providing the public benefits that these lands provide. Chapter 61 has a focus on timber management, and requires a 10-year forest management plan. Chapter 61A is for agricultural lands. Chapter 61 B has been referred to as being for recreational lands. Historically, participation in these programs has been low and has remained fairly steady over time.
UMass and The Trustees of Reservations’ Highland Communities Initiative are pleased to offer a new publication, Ch. 61B Open Space and Recreational Land Current Use Program, which describes the details of the Ch. 61B program. The publication was written because the new Ch. 61B program is a great fit with the way a large segment of landowners view their land, making it an important option for meeting landowner objectives and maintaining open space.
Many landowners own land primarily for its beauty and the privacy it provides. These objectives are often met by simply “doing nothing” and don’t require the development of a forest management plan. However, it is not unusual for a landowner not currently interested in timber harvesting to become interested in a timber harvest at some point in their life as circumstances change.
Ch. 61B is designed for landowners interested in taking a passive approach to their land. However, Ch. 61B also maintains a landowner’s right to harvest, when guided by a forest management plan, if they so desire, but it is not mandatory. In return for enrolling in the program, landowners receive a 75% reduction in land assessment, providing significant tax savings. The Ch. 61B program is run at the community level. Instead of developing a 10-year forest management plan as required by Chapter 61, owners simply file a 2-page form with their local assessor annually. See the Ch. 61B application. Five acres of eligible land is the minimum requirement for the program. This makes it a great match for smaller landowners, the numbers of which continue to increase in Massachusetts.
61B offers a great opportunity for landowners to reduce their property taxes while meeting their landowner objectives and keeping future management options open. Ch. 61B is worth learning more about. To request free hard copies of the new Ch. 61B publication, contact Paul Catanzaro or download a PDF.