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A Historical Review of Forest Property Taxes in Pennsylvania: Implications for Special Forestland Tax Programs

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Since the late 19th century, many states have offered tax relief to forest owners. Pennsylvania has had three special forest tax programs. The first, passed in 1887, was a rebate to forest landowners and was intended to slow forest exploitation. In 1906, a county court ruled that the rebates violated the state's constitution. In 1913, the state passed a yield tax law to encourage second-growth timber management. In 1939, this tax was also declared unconstitutional. Regardless of their constitutionality, few acres were ever enrolled in either program because of administrative barriers to participation, landowners' fears of giving up too much control of their land, lack of publicity, and lack of clear benefits to landowners. The current law, passed in 1974, allows for current use assessment for farm and forestland. This program, known as Clean and Green, is intended to protect open space. Although there were 2,350,123 ac of forestland in 29 counties enrolled in the Clean and Green program in 2000, and in spite of changes made in the late 1990s, concerns remain about the effectiveness and fairness of the program. Attempts to modify both past and current programs have failed to address the program's most significant problems. Perhaps it is time to rethink our entire approach to forestland taxation.

Keywords: Forest taxation; forest history; land use; tax policy

Document Type: Miscellaneous

Affiliations: School of Forest Resources, Pennsylvania State University, 7 Ferguson Building, University Park, PA, 16802,

Publication date: 2003-06-01

More about this publication?
  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Northern Journal of Applied Forestry covers northeastern, midwestern, and boreal forests in the United States and Canada.
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