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Chapter 61: Forest, Farmland & Recreational Land

Conservation & Land Use Planning Under MA Chapter 61 Laws

During the past several decades, constitutional amendments approved by the citizens of Massachusetts have authorized three programs which require cities and towns to reduce assessments of farm, forest and open space lands, provided the owners make a commitment to keep their lands in one or more of those uses. These programs were motivated in large part by rising property values, which were forcing farmers and forest landowners to sell their land because of the increasing tax burden. These tax reduction programs are known as Chapter 61—the Forestland Act; Chapter 61A—the Farmland Assessment Act; and Chapter 61B—the Recreational Land Act.

Each of the Chapter 61 laws provides a voluntary and temporary form of conservation. The owner commits a property to agricultural, forest or recreational use. In exchange, the town or city reduces taxes and is granted the right to purchase the property if and when it is removed from Chapter 61, 61A or 61B classification to be converted or sold for residential, commercial or industrial use. The property taxes of classified land are tied to the income the land can produce; thus, under Chapter 61 the tax is based on the value of the land solely for timber production. In Chapter 61A, the valuations
depend on the crop and animals raised, reflecting the annual net income gained from agriculture and horticulture.

Chapter Land application & forms:

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