The article on Maine’s Tree Growth Tax Law (April 15) presented a very one-sided view of the 40-year-old law, a program that is vital to thousands of small woodland owners. The article was largely about the views of a few disgruntled assessors in the coastal towns outside the Sun Journal’s circulation area. None of the assessors interviewed by the Sun Journal were from towns in the newspaper’s circulation area.

According to the 2010 Municipal Valuation Return Statistical Summary prepared by the Property Tax Division of Maine Revenue Services, there were 5,564 Tree Growth parcels in Androscoggin, Franklin and Oxford counties with a total of 786,950 acres. The opinions of the thousands of small woodland owners who have land in Tree Growth were not expressed in the article.

The job of an assessor should be to place a value on real estate, not find fault with the laws of the state of Maine. Tree Growth properties should be easy to value, as the values are set annually by the state. Most assessors outside the coastal towns have accepted Tree Growth as a valuable conservation tool. The fact that there are undeveloped and forested properties makes a town a more desirable place to live and can boost the overall value of real estate in the town.

As for the thousands of small woodland owners who are enrolled in the Maine Tree Growth  program, the law may be all that keeps them from over-cutting their timber. Once the merchantable timber is harvested, there isn’t much incentive to pay taxes for many years with no income, so the land is offered for sale for house lots or other development. It takes 40 to 50 years to grow pulpwood, and 50 to 75 years to grow sawlogs, so the cost of taxes can be more than the value of timber, if taxes were high.

Without the reduced taxes under Tree Growth, there would not be the scenic forestlands desired by the public for hunting, hiking and watershed protection.

Tree Growth does not give massive breaks to landowners.

In 2011, Tree Growth value for softwood land in Androscoggin, Cumberland, Sagadahoc and York counties was $428 per acre, which is only about one-third the value of other woodland in those counties. Tree Growth does not offer up to a 95 percent discount over regular property taxes.

If the Sun Journal wants to address the true value of the Maine Tree Growth Law, it should get out into the rural towns and talk with the owners of these properties and see what rural Maine is all about.

Fred Huntress Jr., Poland Spring