Property Tax Program

Farm, Forest, and Open Space Act
A Summary Guide to RI's Current Use Tax Law

Overview | Eligibility | Your Forest Mgt. Plan | How To Enroll  | More Info | FAQs

RECOMMENDED MAXIMUM VALUES
FOR FARM, FOREST,
AND OPEN SPACE LANDS

FARM

Ornamental crops: $1,695/acre
Includes nursery, turf, land under greenhouses, floriculture.

Vegetable & Orchards: $560/acre
Includes small fruits, potatoes, cranberries, Christmas trees.

Dairy & Livestock: $265/acre
Includes forage crops, hay, grain, silage corn.

Woodlands & Wetlands: $100/acre

Size: Five (5) acres devoted to agricultural use.

Requirements:

  • Annual income from sale of farm products of $2,500 in one of two previous years.
  • Farmer must have a soil conservation plan, or have applied for one, from local Conservation District.

Application: Have assessor sign application and submit with plan and income information to RI Division of Agriculture.

For information on the farm provisions of the program, call RI Division of Agriculture at 401.222.2781.

FOREST

All DEM-certified managed woodlands: $100 per acre.

Size: Ten (10) acres or larger, not including zoned houselot or one (1) acre, whichever is smaller.

Requirements:

  • The land must bear at least 500 trees per acre.
  • The forest must be actively managed in accordance with a written forest management plan approved by the RI Division of Forest Environment.
    Recertification every five (5) years.

Application: Have assessor sign form and submit with plan to RI Division of Forestry.

For information on the forestry provisions of the program, call RI Division of Forestry at 401.647.3367.

OPEN SPACE

Soils with Slight Limitations for Use: 30% of fair market value.

Soils with Moderate Limitations: 20% of fair market value.

Soils with Severe Limitations: 10% of fair market value.

Size: Ten (10) acres or larger, undeveloped.

All Open Space parcels will be initially assessed at the 30% of fair market value level. If your parcel consists of soil types with limitations to development (e.g., wetlands, ledge), you must present the assessor with a soil survey map indicating those soil types to obtain the lower assessment levels. The soil survey map must include a delineation of your parcel(s) boundaries and acreages of soil categories. This service will be available, for a fee, through the Conservation Districts and from consultants.

Application: Directly to Tax Assessor.

For information on the open space provisions of the program, call So. RI Conservation District at 401.822.8832.

REVISED FFOS REGULATIONS NOW AVAILABLE
The revised DEM regulations for the Farm and Forest components of the Farm, Forest, Open Space Program (FFOS) are now available for public review and comment. According to Tom Dupree, Chief of the RI Division of Forestry, "this set of regulations has been put together through the efforts of many people and they are ready to move forward."

These revisions were a result of several meetings of the FFOS Valuation Subcommittee, which was established in 1999 to determine the recommended current use values for properties under the FFOS Program. The Subcommittee's role includes the review and recommendations of other issues involving the FFOS Program.

Since the DEM's Divisions of Forestry and Agriculture are responsible for certifying farms and woodlands under the Program, the regulations apply primarily to the farm and forest designations. The regulations provide definitions, application procedures, and the legal criteria for cancellation, re-classification, and change of ownership. A revised application form (Appendix A) and a revised set of guidelines for the forest stewardship plan required for the forest designation (Appendix B) are included.

The open space designations are not certified by DEM, so are not included in these regulations. Each town tax assessor handles open space applications, with landowners responsible for acquiring soil maps from the Conservation Districts to determine relative values. For more information on open space values and the soil maps, call the So. RI Conservation District at 822-8832.

The revised regulations are posted in pdf format on the RI DEM's website for public viewing and printing at:

You can also call RIFCO at 568-3421 or the RI Division of Forestry at 647-3367 for a paper copy of the proposed regulations. The DEM will hold a public hearing only if there are comments received from the public posting, so this may be your only opportunity to provide specific comments about the regulations.

RIFCO OVERVIEW

Chapter 44-27 of the RI General Laws provides for land enrolled in the FFOS Program to be assessed at its current use, not its potential value as buildable land.

The purpose of the law is to conserve Rhode Island's Productive agricultural and forest lands, and to protect open space benefits. The law does not guarantee that property taxes will be reduced, only that the assessment will be based upon its value as farm, forest, and open space land.

During the year 2000, the FFOS Valuation Subcommittee conducted studies to determine acceptable, defendable methodologies for calculating current-use values.

The values listed herein are recommended maximum values as presented by the State Conservation Committee to Tax Assessors.

ELIGIBILITY FOR FOREST DESIGNATION

Any tract or contiguous tracts of land, exclusive of homesites and not part of any planned or existing development, at least ten acres or larger (not including the zoned house lot or one acre surrounding any dwelling, whichever is smaller). Must be actively managed according to a written forest management plan and meet the following conditions:

  • It is capable of producing 20 cubic feet of wood fiber per year and is at least 30% stocked by forest trees of any size.
  • Plantations must bear at least 500 trees per acre, and survive at least one growing season.
  • The forest must be actively managed in accordance with the provisions of a written forest management plan for the purpose of growing, thinning, and harvesting forest products.

YOUR FOREST MANAGEMENT PLAN

The RI Division of Forest Environment (DFE) is responsible for certification of forest land under the FFOS Program. The DFE has regulations to guide landowners on the certification process, which requires development and adherence to a forest management plan.

A forest management plan must include:

  • Property map with forest stands identified;
  • Description of the forest stands;
  • Management objectives;
  • Recommendations and timetable for forestry activities.

Forest stand descriptions must include information on stocking level, basal area, average tree diameter, trees per acre, site index, and silvicultural treatments.

Certification is good for five (5) years, at which time the DFE service forester will review the progress you have made in following your plan to determine your recertification for another five years. Management plans must also be kept up to date.

A landowner unable to complete the activities outlined in his management plan may submit a written request to amend the plan to the Director of RIDEM. If, through willful neglect, a landowner fails to complete the activities in the management plan, DEM will cancel designation of the land and the property will be assessed at fair market value. No change of use penalties are due until the parcel is developed.

Only those landowners who are serious about actively managing their woodlands should participate in the forestry component of the FFOS Program.

HOW TO ENROLL

File a completed application form, signed by the tax assessor, along with a forest management plan, a map of the property, and landowner file card (supplied by DEM).

MORE INFORMATION

For a copy of DEM's "Citizen's Guide to the FFOS Act," or for more information on the forestry provisions of the program, please call the RI Division of Forestry at 401.647.3367 or the RI Forest Conservator's Organization (RIFCO) at 401.568.3421.

RIFCO FAQS

Who has determined the FFOS assessments?
The FFOS Valuation Subcommittee, established by state law in 1999 under the RI State Conservation Committee. The Subcommittee includes landowners, tax assessors, URI, and state officials.

Will my taxes go up if my town currently uses a lower assessment?
The State Conservation Committee recommends that communities do not exceed these values for FFOS lands, and that they don't raise existing FFOS values that may currently be below the recommended maximum levels.

When will these values go into effect for my town?
When your town conducts a revaluation update, which must be done every three years, or a full revaluation, which must be done every nine years.

How many acres do I need to own to qualify?
Ten (10) acres of qualified woodland, excluding one acre for houselot.

How does this classification differ from Open Space, and can I switch over?
The big difference is that Forest classification requires active forest management, which contributes to the local economy and increases forest productivity, while Open Space is more generic. Yes, landowners under Open Space can apply to the Forest classification with no use change penalties.

My farm has a woodlot. How will that be assessed?
The recommended value for forestland and/or wetlands within a Farm classification parcel is $100 per acre with or without a forest management plan.

Who can prepare the plan?
The plan must be prepared by a qualified forester in consultation with the landowner. The plan must meet criteria established by RI Department of Environmental Management (DDEM) and be reviewed and approved by DEM's Division of Forest Envinment, who issues the certificate.

For a list of consulting foresters (who will charge a fee for plan preparation), contact the RI Division of Forestry at 401.647.3367 or the RI Forest Conservator's Organization (RIFCO) at 401.568.3421.

Where can I get more information on enrolling under the FFOS Program?
DEM's "Citizen's Guide to the Farm, Forest, and Open Space Act" contains much more detail on the FFOS Act and its enrollment requirements. Contact your tax assessor, local library, or DEM office for a copy.

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