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Policy on Biomass Resources
SC Forestry Association (SCFA) member companies, family forest owners, and other stakeholders believe that South Carolina’s forest resources and wood and paper product industries are contributing, and will add even more, to the goal of US energy independence. Our commitment to sustainable forestry and best management practices exemplify responsible stewardship of natural resources.
SCFA believes fair trade and free markets should be the driving force to utilize biomass resources for renewable energy. Where state or federal policies provide incentives, subsidies or mandates to encourage renewable energy, they should be applied fairly to prevent market distortion and unfair competition.
We support research and development to encourage new technologies for biomass utilization, conversion, and production of bio fuels and electricity.
To further strengthen and develop markets for forest products and the emerging renewable energy industry, SCFA endorses this definition of biomass resources when used in accordance with this policy:
Biomass Resources means any organic, or cellulosic material, excluding fossil fuels, that is available on a renewable or recurring basis, including, but not limited to, organic or cellulosic by-products produced at wood, pulp, or paper producing facilities.
Biomass Resources definition prepared and approved by SCFA’s Biomass Energy Policy Committee, Feb. 25, 2010. SCFA’s Board of Directors approved March 10, 2010.
Policy Addendum Adopted May 6, 2009:
Directs SCFA to assume a role as the voice of reason in representing traditional forest industries and new emerging energy facilities.
Biomass1: The term ‘biomass’ means any organic matter excluding fossil fuels that is available on a renewable or recurring basis, including, but not limited to, agricultural crops, trees, wood and wood wastes and residues, plants (including aquatic plants), grasses, fibers, and animal wastes, municipal wastes, and other waste materials.
Definition: A harvesting method that removes the entire timber stand in an area. Where appropriate, clearcutting is a beneficial forest management tool, if done in an environmentally responsible manner and the landowner provides for regeneration of the forest. When applied responsibly, clearcutting is compatible with other forest functions, providing wildlife habitat and biodiversity without impacting water quality. Aesthetic impacts can be lessened by limiting clearcut size and by shaping clearcuts to fit the site’s topography.
Clearcutting is a recognized and commonly practiced method of harvesting and regenerating many valuable southern forest species. To ensure the proper application of any harvesting system, landowners are advised to seek appropriate professional advice.
The bottom line on conservation easements is that they may indeed be a socially acceptable tool for environmental conservation and smart growth in rural areas; and landowners can obtain significant financial benefits by entering into them.
By: Robert J. Fledderman
Conservation easements may soon become an important financial consideration for many farmers and forest landowners. This is due to several factors: passage of the Farm and Forest Conservation Act last year, the anticipated use of Purchased Development Rights (PDRs) by local governments to implement "Smart Growth" programs, and increased funding for federal initiatives providing funds for outright purchase of conservation easements (the Forest Legacy Program and the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA)).
Conservation easements (voluntary restrictions on land use for conservation purposes) have been around for a number of years. Until recently they were rare, landowners generally entered into them (often to their financial detriment) out of a sense of stewardship. However, with the new government programs mentioned above, along with federal tax law allowing landowners to claim an income tax benefit, conservation easements are becoming increasingly attractive to landowners.
Landowners can now realize significant tax benefits (income tax, property tax, inheritance tax) as well as outright cash payments for entering into conservation easements. Conservation easements are a legitimate option for landowners to monetize their development rights while continuing to use their land for commercial activities like farming and forestry. But like all land transactions, landowners should be aware of potential pitfalls.
Acceptable (for tax benefits) conservation easements are incredibly flexible, allowing considerable leeway for each agreement to be tailored to the objectives of the partners (the landowner and the conservation easement holder – usually a non-profit land trust or conservation organization). While this flexibility is a tremendous asset for customizing the easement to individual situations, it can also result in landowners giving up more rights than necessary or lead to future disputes between partners if not carefully developed.
Perhaps the most important consideration for landowners is the fact that all acceptable (for tax benefits) conservation easements are permanent. While it may be possible to undo a conservation easement, it hasn’t been done yet and with government interests involved, dissolution would likely be very complicated.
Given all this, it is very important to select a compatible and stable partner. Landowners would do well to carefully evaluate the conservation objectives and the long-term prospects of any land trust or other easement holder they are considering.
The permanent nature of conservation easements also means the easement document itself must be strong enough to stand the test of time and the different personalities that will implement it.
A key provision in every conservation easement is the conservation purpose, which is used to determine if the easement meets the federal guidelines as a tax benefit. More importantly, the conservation purpose is the dominant factor in allowing or disallowing land uses and settling disputes between partners. Therefore, it needs to be clear and subject to as little interpretation as possible. Vague conservation purposes like "preserving wildlife habitat" are sure to create conflicts.
Each conservation easement details specific land uses or management activities that are incompatible with the conservation purpose and restricts them. The difference between the market value of the land before and after these restrictions is what determines the amount of the tax benefits or payment. Generally, simply restricting commercial or residential development obtains most of the differential. However, many conservation easements to date have restricted much more than development to meet the conservation objectives of the easement holder. Active forest management has been especially restricted, often to the detriment of the landowner and health of the forest.
Most conservation easement experts now maintain that allowing active forest management and commercial timber harvests, even well-planned clearcuts and plantation forestry, do not preclude tax advantaged conservation easements.
Conservation easements should also include provisions for dispute resolution. Easement holders are legally obligated to enforce the land use restrictions of the easement (many easement holders require their partners to pay a fee to help cover expenses). Dispute resolution provisions need to be efficient and equitable. Many easement agreement models contain conflict resolution provisions that are terribly slanted towards the easement holder.
The bottom line on conservation easements is that they may indeed be a socially acceptable tool for environmental conservation and smart growth in rural areas; and landowners can obtain significant financial benefits by entering into them. On the other hand, conservation easements are not to be entered lightly. They are permanent and must be enforced, creating the potential for conflicts between partners. To enhance the likelihood of successful conservation easements, landowners need to carefully choose a partner with compatible conservation objectives and should seek expert legal counsel to represent their interests.
Definition: A species at risk of extinction because of human activity, changes in climate, changes in predator-prey ratios, etc.
The forests of South Carolina provide habitat to a great variety of plants and animals. The future existence of certain endangered species depends on the continued availability of appropriate forest habitat. The South Carolina forestry community supports protection of species determined by legitimate scientific standards to be endangered. These protection measures must be balanced with competing social and economic values.
An example of an endangered species is the Red-cockaded Woodpecker (RCW). The bird has been in a long-term decline throughout its range in the Southeastern states and particularly on privately-owned land. Encouraging voluntary, beneficial action by private landowners is expected to help slow the decline by maintaining contiguity of its habitat and buffering against possible major storms or other catastrophes destroying populations on public lands.
The first Statewide Safe Harbor Agreement in the nation was signed on March 26, 1998 at Westvaco’s Bonneau Ferry Conference Center in South Carolina.
The voluntary Safe Harbor Agreement is designed to encourage private landowners to undertake management actions that will benefit an endangered species. The program has removed the regulatory impediment that has caused some landowners to fear that if they attract an endangered species to their property, their use of that property could be restricted in the future.
SC Water Pollution Contol Act
This act, enforced by SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), prohibits pollution of streams from forestry or any other activity. Best Management Practices for Forestry are designed to prevent violations of the SC Water Pollution Control Act and Clean Water Act..
Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (42 USC Sec. 6901 et seq.) is primarily related to landfill and solid waste disposal. The major impact on forestry is that trash, tires, batteries, cans, etc. can not be buried on-site but must be carried to an approved solid waste disposal location.
Critical Area and Navigable Waters Permits
A SC DHEC permit (R.30-10 et seq.) is necessary for all activities which alter critical areas of the State’s coastal zone (salt marsh, wetlands and estuarine waters), including constructing roads or bridges for forestry activities. Similarly, a navigable waters permit (Section 10 of the Harbors and Rivers Act) administered by DHEC must be issued if a bridge or cable crossing is necessary for silvicultural activities which occur in State navigable waters.
Endangered Species Act
The Federal Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973 and amended in 1982, protects threatened and endangered species and their habitat. Private landowners may not ‘take’, that is, harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, etc., a listed species. (16 USC Sec. 1532 ).
Clean Water Act
The 1972 Clean Water Act and Clean Water Act Amendments of 1987 were passed to achieve a goal of making the nation’s waters "fishable and swimmable." Initial emphasis of regulatory agencies was on point sources of pollution such as mill effluent pipes. Now emphasis is on nonpoint source (NPS) pollution.
Nonpoint source pollution usually occurs in connection with precipitation and is difficult to trace to a single source. NPS pollution can be effectively controlled with properly prescribed Best Management Practices (BMPs). The Clean Water Act’s Section 319 addresses NPS pollution control. SC Best Management Practices for Forestry have been approved by the federal agencies responsible for NPS pollution control.
The Clean Water Act prohibits all discharges of dredge and fill material into "waters of the United States" unless a discharge is authorized by a Section 404 permit issued by the Corps of Engineers. However, normal ongoing silvicultural activities which involve dredge and fill in wetlands are exempt from Section 404 provided the activity complies with Best Management Practices. Should the dredge and fill activity not comply with BMPs, a permit will be required and all the standards and provisions under Section 404 apply.
Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments
The Coastal Zone Amendments of 1990 (CZARA) are intended to intensify state efforts to reduce NPS pollution in an expanded coastal zone. SC DHEC has developed a NPS Management Program for the entire state that included forestry and addresses CZARA Section 6217 requirements and Section 319 of the Clean Water Act Amendments of 1987. The program is currently being reviewed by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
The Prescribed Fire Act of 1994 (Title 48, Chapter 35, Precautions Law) requires a prescribed burning plan to be prepared and on-site during burning. Notification must be given to the SC Forestry Commission prior to burning.
Guidelines and Standards (Non-regulatory)
South Carolina Best Management Practices for Forestry
Best Management Practices are designed to help minimize impact on water quality, reduce soil erosion and protect streamside areas. South Carolina’s BMPs also address air quality, wildlife habitat, aesthetics, site productivity, and good stewardship. The SC Forestry Commission has been monitoring compliance with BMPs since 1990. The BMP compliance rate has increased from 84% in 1991 to 94% in 2001.
American Forest and Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative
The guidelines contain 12 objectives to ensure implementation of sustainable forestry principles. Compliance with the guidelines will be a condition of membership in AF&PA. The definition of sustainable forestry is "to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by practicing a land stewardship ethic, which integrates the reforestation, managing, growing, nurturing, and harvesting of trees for useful products with the conservation of soil, air, and water quality, wildlife and fish habitat, and aesthetics."
Across the state there is a growing focus on the many benefits provided by forest land. Benefits like clean air, clean water, scenic beauty, wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, and rural character all add immensely to our quality of life. Yet the same natural resource that provides these benefits is also our most valued agricultural crop and supports the third largest manufacturing segment in the state.
South Carolina’s Local Government Comprehensive Planning and Enabling Act of 1994 requires local governments with any kind of zoning or land use ordinances to develop a Comprehensive Plan by May 3, 1999. County governments, in particular, are poised to develop and enact new ordinances on natural resources and land use.
Land use planning is the process of envisioning the desired future landscape, and enacting local policies to encourage or discourage land use practices to meet that goal. Good planning should recognize forestry as a desired land use, and restrict abuse of forest land. Active management of forests and related resources can keep land healthy for present and future generations and increase the economic and environmental benefits of those lands. However, ordinances intended to protect forest resources can sometimes have the opposite effect.
Local ordinances effecting forest management can have wide-ranging consequences. Impacts on tourism, long-term forest health, urban and residential sprawl, conversion of forest land to other uses, wildfire risk, and investment in desirable land-management practices must be considered. The South Carolina Forestry Association can provide expert assistance on forestry issues, resource assessment, and policy decisions that effect forest resources and private landowners.
Based on the experience of working with numerous local governments, these guidelines have been used in developing policies to promote the stewardship of forest resources:
Provide incentives to maintain land in forest use
Distinguish between forest management, and land clearing/tree removal for conversion to non-forest use
Infrastructure planning and development standards may have significant impacts on forest resources
Consider forestry, water quality, and aesthetic conservation easements
Target unique sites and sensitive areas for acquisition
Encourage voluntary compliance with SC Best Management Practices for Forestry
Use publicly available expert assistance to resolve forestry issues
Encourage prompt reforestation
Successful Comprehensive Planning requires public input. It is essential that the forestry community be involved as a vision for the future and policies for forest management are created. Landowners, foresters, industry, sportsmen, and conservationists must all work to keep decision makers informed about forest resources. Contact us for an update on land use planning in your area, and how you can get involved.
Ownership of private property is specifically protected in the Constitution of the United States. Governments, in order to protect the health and safety of their citizens, must restrict some uses of private property; however, such restrictions must be based on proven threats to human well-being and not on the whims of special interest groups.
Landowners have a responsibility to be good stewards of their property.
The South Carolina Forestry Commission’s Best Management Practices are guidelines to help landowners fulfill their stewardship responsibilities. Good forest management results in biological diversity.
The enactment of laws or regulations that restrict the intended use of private property should require society to compensate the landowner to the extent of the loss.
Trees are an essential part of our world. In addition to providing thousands of useful products, trees help improve air and water quality, save energy, reduce noise pollution, improve personal health, increase economic stability, provide wildlife habitat, and add scenic beauty.
Trees are also our most valued agricultural crop and support the third largest manufacturing industry in our State. As a natural resource, wood is renewable, reusable, recyclable, and biodegradable.
Tree ordinances have long been used to protect trees in cities and towns. Now, through Comprehensive Planning, many local governments are considering applying similar ordinances to rural areas. Trees protection in rural areas is very different than in urban settings and a local tree ordinance, if deemed necessary, should reflect that difference. The South Carolina Forestry Association can assist local governments considering tree protection ordinances in rural areas.
A local tree ordinance can be crafted to:
Identify and maintain special trees for public appreciation and scenic beauty.
Provide incentives to keep land in forest use.
Promote preservation and care of exiting trees.
Encourage planting of additional trees during land development.
Recognize that managed forest lands are one of the most environmentally friendly of land uses and are desired and encouraged.
The best way to promote a healthy, diverse, and productive forest base is to encourage responsible forest management and accessible markets for forest products.
A local Tree Ordinance should acknowledge the many environmental, economic, and social benefits provided by privately owned forestland.
Infrastructure planning can have a greater impact on forestlands than tree ordinances.
Landowners have a vested right to carry out normal silvicultural practices and harvest timber in a responsible manner.
Forestry Best Management Practices (BMPs) should be encouraged, and all regulations should be consistent with state and federal guidelines. If a tree ordinance is desired, it should be one component of a comprehensive plan that includes zoning, land use regulations, development standards, and open space acquisition.
Focus on voluntary programs, incentives, and education to achieve objectives.
Tree ordinances should vary restrictions as appropriate for different land use zones.
The County should seek to protect unique and special sites with outstanding public benefit through voluntary agreements, conservation easements, acquisition, and other means.
Consult experts for science based information to resolve conflicts about biology, wildlife benefits, suitability of land use, and other issues.
Provide incentives or services to match demands on property owners, especially regarding aesthetics.
For an ordinance to be fairly and effectively administered, qualified staff or consultants must be available to review plans and make recommendations on enforcement.
Consider applying a tree preservation ordinance to a setback or yard area only.
Consider including tree preservation regulations in existing development standards.
Commercial timber operations should be distinguished from land clearing for development.
Include exemptions for diseased, damaged, and unsafe trees, and if saving a tree is not practical or feasible.
Exempt individual trees if certain tree density criteria are met (i.e. allow removal of some trees in a grove or grouping containing many large trees).
Focus on younger trees and groups of trees, as larger trees are often in declining health.
All commercial operations adjacent to county roads should be conducted to allow safe passage of normal vehicular traffic.
Forests are habitat for game and myriads of other species of animals including the aquatic species that require the quality of water provided by forested watersheds.
Generally, forest management practices are compatible with wildlife and fisheries management. This includes clearcutting and establishing pine plantations. The key is to provide diversity of habitats over the broad landscape which will meet the widely varying needs of wildlife. Landowners with interest in specific species can tailor their forest management activities accordingly.
The South Carolina Forestry Commission’s Best Management Practices provide guidelines for protecting water quality in our lakes and streams, and the ecology within. Forest landowners have an obligation to follow these guidelines to ensure that aquatic habitats are not degraded.