Thomas Robinson | March 16th, 2021
After a Senate Ways and Means subcommittee hearing held yesterday, Senate File 352 was not advanced in the Senate which leaves the current tax exemption for Iowa’s forested land intact.
In the recently proposed bill, the current 100% property tax exemption for forested land would be reduced to 75%. Opponents of the bill have suggested that these tax changes would harm forest reserves across the state as landowners may change how their forested land is used to offset increased property taxes.
Much of the push for the bill comes around the discussion of bad actors that abuse the tax exemption and improperly maintain their land. The current requirements to qualify for the tax exemption are for landowners to participate in Iowa’s forest reserve program, and to maintain either 200 trees per acre, or 70 fruit trees per orchard. While there may be some bad actors, state senator Joe Bolkcom emphasized that most private landowners in the program do a good job of maintaining Iowa’s forests.
After the derecho event last August, approximately a quarter of all trees in Iowa were lost to the storm, while in Cedar Rapids that number increases up to around 65%. Programs such as “ReLeaf” in Cedar Rapids are working to replace lost trees, however, these projects take a long time. For example, it is projected to require up to 15 years to replace Cedar Rapid’s lost trees. Iowa’s forests provide significant recreational value for residents, and out of state visitors, which could be compromised if forested land was negatively affected. After losing so much of Iowa’s forests last summer, now is not the time to put forth a bill that could risk further deforestation in our state.