Chittenden, Alfred K. (Alfred Knight), 1879-1930 / The taxation of forest lands in Wisconsin
General description, pp. 9-20 PDF (3.1 MB)
20 THE TAXATION OF FOREST LANDS IN WISCONSIN. From interviewing many farmers in the county it is apparent that the more progressive of them are really interested in caring for their woods, and are of the opinion that they can often well afford to leave a strip of woodlot on $100 land, because of other considerations than the direct money return from the woods. In many cases the value of a large part of a farm is enhanced by the protection from parching winds afforded by a neighboring woodlot. The regulated and limited use of a woodlot as shade for cattle is also greatly appreciated by most of the farmers. It will undoubtedly be to the advantage, then, of the country in general to maintain at least 5 per cent of even such valuable land as this in timber, and there seems to be no doubt that some adjustment of taxes in favor of small woodlots would prove very beneficial. It is right here that the question of taxation, as applied to timber, is an important factor. Timber land throughout the county is assessed as high as the cultivated land on a farm. Yet in spite of this there are many farmers who prefer to keep from 10 to 15 acres in timber. If the productive capacities of fields adjacent to a forest are augumented by its protection, the increased earning power of that field should not be charged, for taxation purposes, both to it and to the forest as well. The forest land should be taxed only for what it can be made to produce in wood material. The amount necessary to be raised by taxes will naturally be made up on the agricultural land, but such adjustment would unquestionably encourage the farmer to preserve his woodlands and enable the more enterprising to practice forestry at a fairer profit. Fully 5 per cent of the area of any farm community should be kept forested, as the most progressive residents fully realize, for the sake of both the community and the individual. It is evident that, under such a plan, the larger the forest area on a farm the lighter the owner's tax would be, yet the greater productive capacity of the land when devoted to farming, would automatically check a farmer from trying to reduce his taxes by maintaining large areas in woods. By reducing the valuations on woodlots to 25 per cent a progressive farmer would simply be encouraged to maintain his 5 to 10 acres of woodlot, or as much as he might need, and the farmer who would take no interest in preserving his trees would, of course, feel the increase in the tax on his farm land. The average farmer, however, would scarcely feel any difference in his tax burden.
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