Georgia Forestry Association members are encouraged to take caution as Hurricane Idalia travels across the southern part of the state (track the storm here). Hurricanes can leave lasting impacts for forest landowners in the form of lost timber value, stress from salvage operations, and the loss of future income from planned timber harvests. Without proper planning and response to these incidents, forest landowners can see their long-term investments wiped out with little to show in terms of financial compensation.
This guide was developed to provide a pathway to plan for these events, as well as how to navigate aid opportunities, should disaster strike.
NATURAL DISASTER PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS
- Inventory: Consulting foresters provide valuable technical expertise in forest management, along with multiple connections throughout the forestry supply chain. These connections, along with an up-to-date forest inventory can be vital to ensuring you get the most you can from any salvage operations or financial assistance. In general, it is recommended to have a stand inventory from within the last 5 years. This helps estimate the value of the standing timber, along with key information on age, product class, and other distinctions that would be important for salvage operations and documentation for financial assistance after the disaster.
- *It is important to note that the casualty loss deduction when filing your taxes is based upon the lesser of either the timber basis or the fair market value.*
- Timber Basis represents the amount of money you have invested in your timber (Seedlings, Site Prep, Fertilization, Etc.), not including the land investment. The investment in raw land and any improvements in that land are considered your Land Basis.
- Silviculture Practices: There are several silvicultural practices that have been shown to reduce the potential timber loss associated with a natural disaster. The top practices include but are not limited to: maintaining a higher basal area, harvesting at economic maturity, and avoiding a heavy first thinning, especially later in rotation age.
- Insurance Programs: GFA’s partner, Assured Partners, offers standing timber insurance for your timberland asset, which helps to provide security and protect your investment from natural disaster issues such as wind, fire, ice, and several others.
AFTER THE STORM: DEALING WITH NATURAL DISASTERS
- Immediate Action: If you have been affected by the recent tornado events, it is important that you DO NOT begin clean up (outside of small debris) prior to connecting with any of the federal assistance programs. Generally, the USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) will announce programs to aid landowners affected by natural disasters. These programs are administered by your local FSA office, but they must visit the site to document the damage, prior to any salvage or clean-up operations.
- Cost Share Programs: The primary program administered by the USDA FSA is the “Emergency Forest Restoration Program”. This program will help pay up to 75% of the cost to restore land for items such as debris removal, site prep, fencing, fire lines, etc. FSA works closely with the Georgia Forestry Commission on the implementation of this program. It is important to note that the federal cost share payments can take up to 6 months – a year before the landowner will receive them.
- Salvage Operations: Once a natural disaster has struck, landowners should immediately connect with both their local FSA office and their consulting forester to begin the process of conducting salvage operations. Once the timber has been damaged, the clock begins ticking to ensure you get the most you can from the salvage, as the timber will begin to dry out and weigh less. Your local consulting forester’s relationships and connections within the industry can help save precious time in this area.
- GFA will provide communication resources and announce funding opportunities after natural disaster incidents. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact Director of Membership & Grassroots Advocacy, Tim Miller at email@example.com for more information.
OTHER HELPFUL RESOURCES:
- Georgia Forestry Commission / Natural Disaster Recovery
- U.S. Department of Agriculture / Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP)
- NC State Extension / Recovering from the storm: Resources for Woodland and Forest Landowners