The Manual for the Appraisal of Timberland-May 2004 is the document from the State Comptroller’s Office that is used by the District Appraisal offices to set county guidelines. In the Timber Appraisal Manual, there are qualifying guidelines for timber.  They are on pages 6, 7, and 8 of the manual. If you have any interest whatsoever, I highly recommend that you read this information.

I’ll call this the first qualifier from page 6.  Timber production must be the land’s primary use. In this section, under primary use guidelines, it states:  “A chief appraiser may establish a policy to follow reasonable and carefully developed guidelines for determining primary use.” A statement in the next paragraph says : “Guidelines , however, should serve as a trigger for more investigation- they should not be arbitrarily or automatically applied.” The last paragraph in this section states: “ Guidelines that are applied arbitrarily or by rote can produce incorrect results.”

The next qualifier (page 7) is degree of intensity. For Cherokee County, this is the big one. Note in the first paragraph: “To qualify for productivity appraisal, timberland must be used to the degree of intensity generally accepted for prudent timber growers in the area.” “The degree of intensity test is intended to exclude from productivity appraisal land on which token timber activity occurs simply to get tax relief.

Another statement from the manual states: “ The total effort finally determines whether a timber growing operation qualifies, not the level of each separate “ input.” “  The last paragraph of this section adds:

“the chief appraiser should not apply minimum degree of intensity standards arbitrarily- they are a trigger for a more careful review of the application.”

The next qualifier is intent to produce income.  I consider this to be straightforward. If a land owner does not intend to cut and sell timber to make money , then you will not likely nor should you qualify for the special valuation.

The final qualifier in the manual is historical use requirement.  “Land used primarily for timber or agricultural production during any five of the last seven years may qualify for timber production appraisal.  This needs no explanation.  

What are the minimum acreages in surrounding counties?  Those counties are: Angelina, Anderson, Rusk, Smith, Henderson, Nacogdoches and Houston. One county went to 20 last year, but grandfathered existing landowners who were qualified otherwise. One county uses 20 acres as a “trigger” with further requirement to be approved at less . One county has no minimum. Four counties use 10 acres as a “trigger.”  One county uses 20 as a “trigger” and less than 20 can qualify with a timber management plan that can be prepared by the owner.

In conclusion, seven of the eight counties use acreage minimums as a “trigger”. They seem to understand that minimum acreage alone cannot be used to disqualify land owners who otherwise qualify.

Doug Gowin

Jacksonville, Texas

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