What Is Forestry Law?

Forestry law is the law that governs how people acquire, use, and harvest forest lands.

The law concerns all of the many issues that impact forestry including environmental regulations, tax regulations, and even legal issues that arise from tourism on forest lands.

Forestry law encompasses all of the laws that impact the forest industry.

What Is Forestry Law in the United States?

The United States has 750 million acres of forest land.

Approximately 40 percent of U.S. forest land is owned by a federal or state government.

The rest is privately owned and available for harvesting.

Even 250 million acres of state-owned forest land in the United States is open for commercial harvesting with regulations.

There are federal and state laws that regulate the ownership and use of both private and public forest lands.

What Forestry Laws Exist in the United States?

In 1891, lawmakers passed the Forest Reserve Act.

The Act allows the U.S. President to select areas to designate as forest reserves.

The 1891 Forest Reserve Act created and gave way to the national forest system.

Another significant forest law in the United States is the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

Lawmakers passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act in 1948 and amended it in 1972.

The Act creates many of the environmental regulations that forest owners and harvesters must follow.

Finally, the Endangered Species Act is also relevant to forest activities in the United States.

Environmental Regulations in Forestry Law

Environmental regulations in the forestry industry may come from laws like the Federal Water Pollution Control Act.

They may also come from regulatory authorities through the Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Forest owners must comply with both state and federal regulations as they go about their business.

Forestry attorneys help their clients identify and implement state and federal environmental regulations.

International Agreements in Forestry Law

International treaties, trade agreements, and other regulations may impact the forest industry.

Many international agreements aim to prevent the spread of disease to plants and animals.

International agreements also encompass international issues like climate change, endangered species, and habitat preservation.

Forestry lawyers create, implement, and work to enforce international agreements that are relevant to the forest industry.

Agrotourism Laws in Forestry

Forest owners often rent their land for recreation and tourism.

Tourists may visit forest land to camp, hunt, fish, or hike.

Along with any other landowner that welcomes guests onto their property, forest owners face liability for negligence and other tort liability for the guests that enter their property.

Forestry law involves informing clients of their potential legal liability for property rentals and other invited guests.

Lawyers advise clients on measures to prevent liability.

Lawyers also handle any tort issues that arise.

Taxation in Forestry Law

How to tax forest lands is a question of significant debate.

Property owners and governments clash over how to value land that contains valuable timber.

They also disagree about whether to regulate harvested timber as a capital asset.

Tax credits may be available for conservation activities on forest land.

Forestry attorneys help their clients understand and comply with tax laws.

Attorneys who practice forestry law help their clients challenge valuation issues that may arise regarding growing and harvesting timber.

Tax challenges may involve local units of government, state tax bureaus, or even the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

State Forestry Laws

In addition to federal regulations, forestry laws are also state laws.

States may regulate forestry activities in detail, or they may have a simple law that provides for the acquisition of forest lands by the state government.

Most state governments have significant regulations of forestry activities within their borders.

While some states directly regulate forestry activities through their legislature, other states regulate forestry activities by delegating to a forestry commission.

For example, Alabama is one state that uses a state forestry commission to make laws.

The state has a committee of interested parties that study forestry issues and make recommendations.

Whether they are created by legislation or by a commission, most state forestry regulations govern issues like the acquisition of land, burning regulations, and rules for cutting timber.

For example, California forestry rules prohibit cutting timber with a machine that can generate sparks or fires.

Who Practices Forestry Law?

Attorneys who practice forestry law both work for the government that makes the regulations that apply to the forest industry and for the landowners who own timber.

Some attorneys devote their entire careers to enforcing forestry laws through a federal agency.

Other attorneys work as in-house counsel for a landowner or for a law firm in a capacity that exclusively focuses on forestry issues.

In addition, forestry attorneys may work with international governments in order to negotiate international agreements about forestry and other environmental issues.

Other attorneys may only work on forestry law intermittently.

They may have a general practice and come across only an occasional forestry law case.

For example, a staff attorney for a state legislature might work on writing a forestry law along with laws about many other subjects.

An attorney who practices civil tort law might handle one case that involves events that happen on forest lands as part of a general civil tort practice.

Forestry law is complex.

There are large amounts of money involved, and errors can be costly for clients.

Because there are significant state laws as well as federal laws that apply to the forest industry, attorneys who practice forestry law are spread throughout the United States.

Because forestry law is complex and state-specific, forestry attorneys often focus solely on forestry issues in one state or in a small number of states.

Forestry attorneys are both regulatory attorneys and litigators.

They must be able to draft, interpret, and implement complex regulations.

When litigation arises, forestry attorneys may become involved in administrative hearings or civil litigation.

Some forestry attorneys may handle all areas of the law, while other attorneys might focus on regulatory issues or litigation alone.

Forestry attorneys have the opportunity to choose a career path that meets their interests whether it be regulation, litigation, or both types of legal practice.

Why Practice Forestry Law?

Forestry law provides an exciting, challenging, and rewarding career field for attorneys who want to focus on the forest industry.

For attorneys with a background in biology or environmental studies, forestry law can provide the right opportunity to use their diverse education in the practice of law.

Attorneys who practice forest law can live and work throughout the United States.

They can also focus on the specific state law that they choose.

The forestry industry impacts all of society.

Whether they work on behalf of the government or on behalf of private clients, forestry attorneys have the opportunity to participate in this important work.

For attorneys who enjoy environmental law as a subject matter, practicing forest law can provide a meaningful and challenging career.

Helping Clients Acquire, Maintain, and Harvest Forests

Forestry law involves regulations and managing risk.

Government attorneys, private attorneys, and even international negotiators all practice forestry law.

Forestry attorneys work to create sound regulations to protect the environment and allocate resources in a safe and equitable manner.

Attorneys work to help their clients succeed in all aspects of the forest industry.

Whether they are creating or implementing regulations or litigating conflicts in court, forest attorneys are an integral part of an important and exciting industry that impacts all of society.

Chelsea Wilson

About Chelsea Wilson

Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s distance learning LLM degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

One Response to What Is Forestry Law?

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    William Hollyer #

    Forestry lawyers often collaborate with government agencies, environmental organizations, and timber companies to find solutions that benefit all stakeholders.

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