The Massachusetts Forest Cutting Practices Act was created to ensure the long-term public benefits provided by forests. The Forest Cutting Practices Act (FCPA) states that public welfare requires the rehabilitation, maintenance, and protection of forestlands for the purposes of conserving water, preventing floods and soil erosion, improving conditions for wildlife and recreation, and insuring a continuous supply of wood.
The FCPA protects the benefits of forests through a permitting process. Applicable to timber harvesting on both public and private forestland, the FCPA regulates any commercial timber cutting of wood products greater than 25 thousand board feet or 50 cords on any parcel of land at any one time. Activities exempt under the FCPA include harvesting for:
- rights-of-way for public utilities and public highways
- cultivation, pasture or pasture maintenance
- non-commercial use of the landowner or tenant
- changing land use when permitted by town or city
- small commercial harvests ( However, a cutting plan may be filed to gain exemption to M.G.L. Ch. 131 the Wetlands Protection Act if wetland resources are involved.)
If an activity is not exempt, the FCPA requires filing a Forest Cutting Plan with the Department of Conservation and Recreation and the local conservation commission at least ten business days before the proposed start date. At the same time the landowner or agent prepares the Notice of Intent to Abutters form, which must be sent to abutters of record whose boundaries are within 200 feet of the cutting area. The purpose of the Notice of Intent to Abutters is to provide an opportunity for landowners to determine if boundary lines have been accurately marked, it is not an opportunity for comment on the operation itself.
The Forest Cutting Plan includes information such as: landowner name and address, property location, Best Management Practices used for stream and wetland crossings, harvesting in wetlands, type of cutting being proposed for the property, and the volume of products to be harvested. At least two maps need to be included as a part of the Forest Cutting Plan. The first is a detailed site map which shows the location of: wetland resources, main skid roads, landings, property lines, and the areas to be harvested. The second map is a locus map with property boundaries outlined to show its general location.
Once a properly prepared Forest Cutting Plan is received by the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the local Service Forester has ten business days to review the plan for compliance. The Service Foresters review the wetland mapping, ensure that Best Management Practices are correctly identified to protect water resources, and that the standards for forest regeneration are being met. After a site visit the Service Forester approves the plan, ask for further clarification or information, or disapproves the plan.
Some landowners hire a consulting forester (a private MA Licensed Forester who works directly for the landowner to implement forest management), while others have a licensed timber harvester prepare the plan.
The Filing of a Cutting Plan not only helps the private landowner by achieving a better job through planning but also helps ensure the continued public benefits of our state's forests, by protecting our wetlands and water resources, mitigating or eliminating potential impacts on Rare and Endangered Species, and regenerating our forests. All rules and regulations of the FCPA are minimum standards and many landowners chose to also implement additional environmental or aesthetic protection through the use of a strong timber sale contract.
For more detailed information on the Forest Cutting Practices Act contact YOUR Service Forester or review M.G.L. Ch. 132 "Forest Cutting Practices Act. Click here for the following: CH 132 Directions for the preparation of a Forest Cutting Plan , CH 132 Blank Forest Cutting Plan form with Landowner Information Sheets, CH 132 Forest Cutting Plan Example Form , and CH 132 Appointment of Agent Form .