October 26, 2009

Trees and Forestry

Code Enforcement Officer Henry Slater used to remind the Planning Board about another category of farmer: tree farmers. There are Christmas tree farms, but also a lot of logging operations. Some of the logging is for firewood, some for lumber, some for pulp, and some just to clear the land for development.

Our forests may get more interesting in the next few years as wood heat is a big story again. Classic woodstoves are part of that, but so are wood pellet stoves (and possibly grass pellet stoves eventually) and larger heating systems that run on chipped wood, often material that has to be thinned out of forests anyway. These larger systems are generally for bigger buildings, complexes, or even neighborhoods, but aren't yet common in the United States. Cayuga Nature Center, across the lake, is installing one as part of a pilot program.

Lumber, of course, is still important, though many of our trees are too young or not the right species. For those lucky enough to have the right hardwoods, they can be valuable. A friend of mine hopes that some trees on her property will help pay her child's college tuition. There are other possibilities as well, like maple sap harvesting for syrup.

Hammond Hill State Forest
Hammond Hill State Forest.

What can the Town do to encourage forestry? The most common complaint I hear from owners of forest is the burden of property taxes on land that only produces a return occasionally. I'm not sure there's an easy way for the Town (which accounts for a tiny proportion of those) to help with that, though county assessment policies seem to be a factor. The Town might be able to encourage use of biomass heating, creating a local market for the waste wood, if the pilot projects are promising. The approaches outlined in the upcoming zoning law might make it easier to create neighborhood structures where district heating could work using these larger biomass systems.

Less directly, the Town's stewardship of the Cortland Road Sewer District and a possible Cortland Road Water District can also affect Dryden school taxes, as the Dryden High School / Middle School is in that area. There's likely not that much the Town can do - and it's a tiny chunk of the school district budget - but we should certainly do everything we can to keep those costs low.

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Posted by simon at October 26, 2009 9:25 AM in , , , ,
Note on photos