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, such as the creation of a house lot, a subdivision or for mining gravel or for any other activity requiring town or city permits
- 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 (DCR) and the local conservation commission at least ten business days before the proposed start date.
The landowner or agent must also prepare 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 intended as 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. Example
The second map is a locus map with property boundaries outlined to show its general location. Example
Once a properly prepared Forest Cutting Plan is received by DCR, the local Service Forester has ten business days to review the proposed plan for compliance. The Service Foresters conduct a field review of the wetland mapping, ensure that Best Management Practices file size 1MB are correctly identified to protect water resources, and that the standards for forest regeneration are being met. A Service Forester also compares the proposed plan to the most recent copy of the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Atlas, if the proposed harvest within Priority Habitat, DCR staff will forward the Forest Cutting Plan to the NHESP for review. After a site visit and cutting plan review, the Service Forester may approve the plan, ask for further clarification or information, or disapprove the plan.
Who Can Prepare a Forest Cutting Plan?
Foresters can serve as “woodland architects,” helping landowners develop goals and understand available options for their woods. Foresters outline alternatives based on the landowner’s goals for the property—timber management for income, wildlife habitat enhancement, recreational trails, or a mix of these benefits—and draw up plans to achieve those goals.
There are two types of private foresters: consulting foresters and industrial foresters. Consulting foresters generally work independently or in small firms and are paid directly by the landowner. Industrial foresters are private foresters employed by a sawmill or other woodusing industry.
If the property is classified in a current use program (Ch61, Ch61A, Ch61B) then the Forest Cutting Plan must be prepared by a Massachusetts licensed forester or by the landowner.
For a list of foresters working in a particular Massachusetts town visit http://masswoods.net/, a website maintained by UMass Extension.
A logger must hold a Timber Harvester License in Massachusetts. Timber harvesters are in the business of cutting down trees, cutting them into logs, removing the logs from the woods to the roadside, and transporting the logs to the sawmill. The logger is like the “builder” and may be involved with the implementation of the forester’s plan or “blueprint” if timber harvesting is involved. If the land is not classified in a current use program (Ch61, Ch61A, Ch61B) then a Massachusetts Timber Harvester may prepare a forest cutting plan for a landowner.
Landowners in Massachusetts have the right to prepare their own Forest Cutting Plan. Typically only those landowners who are very involved in the management of their land and have some familiarity with the FCPA file their own plans.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long is a cutting plan valid?
Answer: A Forest Cutting Plan is valid for two years from the date received with the opportunity for 2, 1-year extensions.