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Ohio Forest Tax Law

The Ohio Forest Tax Law program provides a 50% reduction of property taxes on qualifying forested acreage. In exchange for the tax reduction, landowners agree to manage their forest land for the commercial production of timber and other forest products and to abide by pertinent rules and regulations.

Some minimum qualifications include: 10 acres of forestland excluding openings and buildings; having your boundaries marked permanently every 100 feet; and having an approved Forest Management Plan.

Contact a service forester to start by getting your forested acreage classified.

Eligibility and Requirements

Your Land Must Meet the Definition of "Forestland"

According to the Ohio Administrative Code, “forest land” is defined as:
“Land for which the primary purpose is the growing, managing and harvesting of a merchantable forest product of commercial species under accepted silvicultural systems through natural or artificial reforestation methods and for which there is an approved forest management plan. The forest land shall consist of a stand or stands of commercial species of forest trees which contain at least fifty square feet of basal area or at least three hundred stems per acre which shall be evenly distributed throughout the stand. Land otherwise meeting the definition of forest land per this paragraph but where such purposes are prohibited or made impracticable by ordinance, resolution, easement or other restriction are excluded from this definition.”

If your forestland meets that definition, it may be eligible for certification under Ohio Forest Tax Law (OFTL).

Is My Land Eligible?

  • Forestland must be 10 or more acres (home sites and other building sites excepted; 1.0-acre deduction) and not less than 120 feet wide.
  • Forestland must include, per acre, at least 300 stems for younger plantations or 50 square feet of basal tree for native or long-established plantations. The trees counted toward this requirement must be commercial species such as oak, hickory, maple, beech, cherry, walnut, yellow-poplar, pine, etc. Commercial orchards and Christmas tree plantations do not qualify as forestland under OFTL.
  • Forestland must be accessible for management.
  • Property boundary lines and/or forest boundary lines must be clearly marked prior to examination and those markings continuously maintained.

What Do I Have to Do?

  • You have to apply to take part in the program.
  • Before your forestland can be certified, you must mark your property boundary lines per program specifications.
  • You must manage your forestland in accordance with a forest management plan approved by the Chief of the Division of Forestry.

How Much Does It Cost?

There is a one-time fee of $75 that is due only after your forestland has been certified for eligibility. Any costs for compliance are born by the landowner.

A Forest Management Plan Is Required

In order to qualify for OFTL, landowners must have a written plan to guide them in the management of their forestland -- a plan prepared by a professional consulting forester and approved by a State Forester working for the Ohio Division of Forestry. Landowners are required to follow the provisions of their forest management plan. Every five years, you will be required to self-certify that you are following your forest management plan, and your certified forestland will be subject to a random examination by a State Forester to ensure compliance with the plan and with other requirements under OFTL.

The Ohio Administrative Code defines a forest management plan as “A written document establishing direction and goals for the management of a specific forest land area. If not prepared by the division, the document must be developed by a professional consulting forester. The plan will specify all silvicultural practices and activities necessary to accomplish the merchantable production of a forest product, all practices that will minimize adverse environmental effects and will include but not be limited to the elements described in rule 1501:3-10-04 [i.e., location, description, map, management schedule, etc.].”

Requirements for Certification

  • A tract of forestland must be at least 10 acres and no less than 120 feet wide. Deductions are made for the following non-qualifying acreage:
    • Homesites and other building sites (minimum of 1 acre deduction)
    • Streams, rivers, roads, and other non-forested strips, including utility and railroad rights-of-way, more than 120 feet wide
    • Lakes and ponds greater than 1 acre in size
  • Forestland must be accessible for management.
  • Forest plantations are eligible for certification after at least one full calendar year as long as they include at least 300 living trees per acre of commercial species such as oak, hickory, maple, beech, cherry, walnut, yellow-poplar, pine, and so on. Commercial orchards and Christmas tree plantations do not qualify as forestland under OFTL.
  • Property boundary lines and/or forestland boundary lines must be marked and those markings must be continuously maintained. Any of the following ways of marking boundary lines is acceptable:
    • Blazing of trees with paint
    • Installation of posts or stakes
    • Metal or plastic signs measuring at least 4 inches by 4 inches or having a 4 inch diameter
    • Installation of a fence (an existing well-constructed fence qualifies)
  • If the landowner uses paint, posts, or stakes, marks or markers must be no farther than 100 feet apart and visible from one mark to the next. Stakes or posts must have a height of at least 4-1/2 feet above the ground. Any materials used for markings shall have a lifespan of at least 10 years. The use of flagging, ribbon, or surveyor’s tape is not an acceptable way to mark boundary lines.
  • If the landowner has cut or removed a merchantable forest product during the three years prior to the time of application, that cutting or removal must have been accomplished as part of an acceptable silvicultural practice as determined by the Ohio Division of Forestry, or the landowner implements practices prescribed by the Division to address the improper harvesting.

Landowner Requirements

In order to have your land certified under OFTL and to continue with that certification, landowners must:

  • Declare that your forestland will be devoted exclusively to forestry with a primary objective of producing merchantable forest products and may include its allied fields of wildlife conservation, recreation, aesthetics, etc., where these do not interfere with the productivity of the forest.
  • Establish and maintain property boundary line and/or forest boundary line markings according to OFTL standards.
  • Follow the forest management plan prepared for your property.
  • Before cutting timber, submit a timber harvest Notice of Intent (NOI) and timber harvest plan with their local Soil and Water Conservation District office and with your Ohio Division of Forestry forester.
  • When cutting timber, a professional forester must be consulted to ensure the timber harvest complies with your forest management plan. You also must use a logger certified by the Ohio Forestry Association (OFA) as a master logger. A list of OFA Master Loggers can be found on the OFA website. You may request a waiver of the master logger requirement if justified; consult with you state forester in such cases.
  • During and at the close of logging operations, implement best management practices to prevent or reduce erosion, sedimentation, and water pollution.
  • Protect their forestland from livestock.
  • To the best of their ability, protect their forestland from fires.
  • Comply with all laws, rules, and regulations promulgated by the Chief, which are used in the administration of ORC 5713.22 - 26. See OAC 1501:3-10-01 - 07 for more details.
  • Affirm your understanding that:
    • When certified forestland is divided or split into two or more ownerships, the original owner will need to update their agreement with the Ohio Division of Forestry. New owners will need to apply for certification.
    • When ownership of certified forestland changes through sale, deed transfer, or any other means, new owners will need to apply to maintain certification except when ownership change is to a family member. With transfers to family members, an affirmation by the new family members required to the agreement terms and forest management plan.
    • When certified forestland or any part thereof is converted to a use other than that of the commercial production of timber and other forest products (such as the construction of a house or other building, conversion to pasture, etc.), the agreement form and forest management plan shall be updated to reflect the modified acreage. If these modifications are not completed or if the remaining forest acreage does not meet program eligibility requirements, a notice of violation will be issued and the certification will be canceled if not resolved.

Self-Certification Form -- Instructive VIDEO

Step-by-Step Process for Landowners

  1. Submit the following documents to your Service Forester:
    1. A completed application form
    2. A copy of your most recent property tax bill(s)
    3. One (1) copy of a property tax plat map or aerial photograph showing your entire property boundary and at least 1 road intersection. Tax plat maps are available at your county courthouse. Aerial photographs are available from your local U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Services Agency (FSA) office. Some county auditor websites have GIS aerial photos available on line.
  2. Upon receipt of all materials, your state forester will contact you for an appointment to visit your property. Prior to the state forester’s visit, your property boundary lines and/or forest boundary lines must be marked in one of the following ways:
    • Blazing of trees with paint
    • Installation of posts or stakes
    • Installation of a fence (an existing well-constructed fence qualifies)
    • Metal or plastic signs measuring at least 4 inches by 4 inches or having a 4 inch diameter

    Your paint marks, signs, posts, or stakes must be no farther than 100 feet apart and visible from one marking to the next. Stakes or posts must have a height of at least 4-1/2 feet above the ground. Any materials used for markings shall have a lifespan of at least 10 years. The use of flagging, ribbon, or surveyor’s tape is not an acceptable way to mark boundary lines.

  3. During this visit, the state forester will examine your property to see if it is eligible for certification.
  4. If the state forester informs you that your property is eligible, you will need to contact a professional consulting forester to prepare a forest stewardship management plan for your property.
  5. When you receive a copy of your forest stewardship management plan from the consulting forester, you will send a copy of that plan to your state forester (or have the consulting forester send it).
  6. The state forester will review the management plan for approval, and if approved, will send you three copies of the Ohio Forest Tax Law agreement form (FT-7).
  7. All three copies of the agreement form must be signed by the person or persons whose names are recorded on the deed exactly as those names appear on the deed. You must sign the cover page to your forest stewardship management plan.
  8. Return all three copies of the signed agreement form, the signed cover page(s) of your forest stewardship management plan, and a $75 non-refundable application fee (checks only) to your state forester for processing. Make your check payable to the Ohio Division of Forestry.
  9. Upon receipt of the signed materials and the $75 application fee, your state forester will submit your application package to the Chief of the Division of Forestry for processing.
  10. The Chief will issue a Certificate of Classification to your County Auditor, with copies to you and to your state forester.

Where to Find Additional Woodland Management Training

During meetings and communication with their state forester and professional consulting foresters, landowners will receive information about proper woodland management practices and practices that are required to maintain certification in the Ohio Forest Tax Law program. Direct communication with your forester is important when making forest management decisions and completing practices (e.g., Ohio Forest Tax Law requires that you involve a forester when conducting a commercial timber sale). However, many group education events are available to expand your knowledge of woodland management, wildlife management, and other topics related to owning a woodland. Below is a list of information about such educational opportunities.

Options include: