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:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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).
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 401.539.2356 or the RI Forest Conservator's Organization (RIFCO) at 401.568.3421.
Who has determined the FFOS assessments?
Will my taxes go up if my town currently uses a lower assessment?
When will these values go into effect for my town?
How many acres do I need to own to qualify?
How does this classification differ from Open Space, and can I switch over?
My farm has a woodlot. How will that be assessed?
Who can prepare the plan?
For a list of consulting foresters (who will charge a fee for plan preparation), contact the RI Division of Forestry at 401.539.2356 or the RI Forest Conservator's Organization (RIFCO) at 401.568.3421.
Where can I get more information on enrolling under the FFOS Program?