Section 2. Except as otherwise herein provided, all forest land, parcels of not less than 10 contiguous acres in area, used for forest production shall be classified by the assessors as forest land upon written application sufficient for identification and certification by the state forester. Such application shall be accompanied by a forest management plan. The state forester will have sole responsibility for review and certification with regard to forest land and forest production.
The rate of tax applicable to certified forest land shall be the rate determined to be applicable to class three, commercial property under chapter 59.
Upon receipt of such certified application, the board of assessors shall, upon a form approved by the commissioner of revenue, forthwith record in the registry of deeds of the county or district in which the parcel is situated, a statement of such classification which shall constitute a lien upon the land for taxes levied under the provisions of this chapter. The statement shall name the owner and a description of the land. The assessors shall return a copy of said recorded statement to the office of the state forester containing the date, book and page number of such recording. Said lien may be discharged by the board of assessors. All recording fees in connection with such statement or discharge shall be paid by the owner of such parcel.
Land shall be removed from classification by the assessor unless, at least every ten years, the owner files with said assessor a new certification by the state forester. The state forester, or his designee, shall have the authority to enter on private lands for the purpose of making investigations to assure compliance with this chapter. Classified forest land shall be subject to the taxes provided in section three. Buildings and structures and the land on which they are erected and which is accessory to their use shall not be entitled to be classified as forest land.
If a single parcel or tract of land consists in part of forest land and in part of other land, the portion consisting of forest land, if said portion comprises at least ten contiguous acres in area and otherwise conforms to the requirements of this chapter shall be classified forest land upon application as hereinbefore provided.
An application to have land classified as forest land shall be submitted to the state forester prior to July first in any year. After certification the owner shall submit to the assessors prior to October first of the same year evidence of certification together with the approved management plan. Classification shall take effect on January first of the year following certification and taxation under this chapter and shall commence with the fiscal year beginning after said January first.
When in judgment of the assessors, land which is classified as forest land or which is the subject of an application for such classification is not being managed under a program, or is being used for purposes incompatible with forest production, or does not otherwise qualify under this chapter, the assessors may, on or before December first in any year file an appeal in writing mailed by certified mail to the state forester requesting a denial of application or, in the case of classified land, requesting removal of the land from such classification. Such appeal shall state the reasons for such request. A copy of the appeal shall be mailed by the assessors by certified mail to the owner of the land. The state forester may initiate, on or before December first of any year, a proceeding to remove land from classification, sending notice of his action by certified mail to the assessors and the owner of such land. The state forester may deny the owner’s application, may withdraw all or part of the land from classification, or may grant the application, imposing such terms and conditions as he deems reasonable to carry out the purpose of this chapter, and shall notify the assessors and the owner of his decision no later than March first of the following year. If the owner or the assessors are aggrieved by his decision they may, on or before April fifteenth, give notice to the state forester of a claim of appeal. The state forester shall convene on or before May fifteenth, a panel in the region in which the land is located. Said panel shall consist of three members, one of whom shall be named by the state forester, one of whom shall be named by the assessors, and one of whom shall be named by the state forester and the assessors. Said panel shall give notice of the date and place of the hearing in writing to the parties seven days at least before the date of said hearing. The panel shall furnish the parties, in writing, a notice of its decision within ten days after the adjournment of said hearing. Decisions of the panel shall be by majority vote of its members. If the owner or the assessors are aggrieved by such decision, they may, within forty-five days from receipt of the decision, petition either the superior court in the county in which the land is located for a review of such decision under the provisions of chapter thirty A or the appellate tax board under the provisions of chapter fifty-eight A, and said land shall not be classified or withdrawn from classification until the final determination of such petition. The state forester may adopt such regulations as he deems necessary to carry out the provisions of this chapter.