Woodland Incentive Funding Requested
Updated: Aug 11, 2021
Maryland’s nationally acclaimed Sustainable Forestry Act of 2009 made clear that a healthy forest is a healthy Chesapeake Bay, aka Chapter 175, Acts of 2009.
Maryland’s share of the EPA-mandated 2025 goals of TMDL – Chesapeake Bay restoration effort -- amounts to about $14.4 billion. There is no way this laudable goal can be met absent sustainable forestry management, so says Chapter 175. The principal funding source for helping DNR’s Forest Service do its job is the Mel Noland Woodland Incentives Fund (“WIF”). However, WIF is only funded from a portion of the agricultural transfer tax which is capped annually @ $200,000; an amount that has only been maximized a couple of times over the years given the complexity of its interpretation by the Department of Assessments & Taxation. With Chapter 175, the purposes of WIF have been vastly expanded, all for the benefit of forest landowners and the industry via efforts by DNR’s Forest Service. However, no additional monies have ever been budgeted to WIF to help facilitate compliance with its broadened statutory mandate.
In 2008, few realize that efforts were made by the Association of Forest Industries (AFI) to amend the 2010 Trust Fund to include WIF as a line item eligible for funding -- a successful effort at that. The funding source: $50 million from a portion of the gas tax and car rental tax. Yet, not one nickel of these monies over the years has been budgeted for WIF. This must change.
MFA, in cooperation with AFI, is attempting to break this fiscal impasse with its “Why Markets Matter Report” which recommends, among other things, that WIF finally be funded from the 2010 Trust Fund pursuant to its eligibility. It is highly anticipated the EAS report will echo the same. With the 2021 Session looming, MFA and AFI reached out beyond the Executive Branch and the forest community per se to advance this recommendation. Courtesy of the House Majority Leader (Delegate Eric Luedtke) and the Vice-Chairman of the House Environment & Transportation Committee ( Delegate Dana Stein), we were heard as evidenced by their jointly signed statement below sent this day to Governor Hogan stating the same. In short, they request the Governor budget $1 million in fiscal year 2022 to WIF from the estimated $50 million to be allocated to the 2010 Trust Fund in fiscal year 2022.
This could be a Christmas Miracle for Maryland’s forest community if both the Governor and General Assembly concur to budget $1 million to WIF in fiscal year 2022.