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Cutting Practices & Slash Laws

FOREST CUTTING PRACTICES

Chapter 132: Section 40. Declaration of policy of commonwealth.

Section 40. It is hereby declared that the public welfare requires the rehabilitation, maintenance, and protection of forest lands for the purpose of conserving water, preventing floods and soil erosion, improving the conditions for wildlife and recreation, protecting and improving air and water quality, and providing a continuing and increasing supply of forest products for public consumption, farm use, and for the woodusing industries of the commonwealth.

Therefore, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the commonwealth that all lands devoted to forest growth shall be kept in such condition as shall not jeopardize the public interests, and that the policy of the commonwealth shall further be one of cooperation with the landowners and other agencies interested in forestry practices for the proper and profitable management of all forest lands in the interest of the owner, the public and the users of forest products.

132: Section 41. State forestry committee; members; forest cutting practices and guidelines.

Section 41. The governor shall appoint a state forestry committee, to consist of eight members representing, respectively: forest land owners; primary woodusing industries; licensed timber harvesters; consulting foresters; environmental organizations; water supply agencies; fisheries and wildlife; and one member representing the public at large. The director of the division of forests and parks, hereinafter referred to as the director, shall be an ex officio member of the committee and shall vote only in case of a tie.

In the initial appointments of said committee members, three shall be appointed for a one year term, three for a two year term, and two for a three year term. Thereafter, as the term of a committee member expires, his successor, with like qualifications as his predecessor, shall be appointed for a term of three years. Said committee shall select its own chairman. The members of said committee shall serve without pay, but shall be reimbursed for actual travelling expenses within the commonwealth, when approved by said director.

The state forestry committee, with recommendations of such other advisory committees as the director in his discretion may appoint, shall prepare tentative minimum forest cutting practices and guidelines. Before recommending any forest practices, said committee shall hold hearings, with due notice being given, in conformance with chapter thirty A, in at least three places conveniently located throughout the commonwealth. Said committee may thereafter recommend such practices or modifications thereof and submit them to the director of forests and parks. Said director shall, subject to the approval by the commissioner of environmental management, thereupon adopt the practices and place them in effect, by posting in all city and town halls in the region affected and by publication in at least one daily newspaper in every county affected. Such approved practices may be amended at any time by said committee in the same manner, on its own motion or upon the petition of not less than twenty-five forest owners or licensed timber harvesters of the commonwealth or upon petition of any person authorized under section four of chapter thirty A.

Chapter 132: Section 42. Notice of proposed cutting of forest products; final work order; report to director; appeal of decision of director.

Section 42. Every owner of land who proposes to cut forest products on land devoted to forest purposes, or to cause such products to be cut, except as provided in section forty-four, shall send by certified mail or hand deliver written notice of his intention to begin any cutting operation to the abutters of record on file with the assessors of the town in which the land lies, and whose closest boundary is within two hundred feet of the edge of the cutting area, at least ten days prior to operations; and shall send by certified mail or hand deliver, written notice of his intention to begin any cutting operation, and his proposed cutting operation, and his proposed cutting plan, including information as may be necessary to describe such proposed activity, to the director or his agent at the appropriate regional office and to the conservation commission of the town in which the land lies at least ten days prior to operations; and in the case of classified forest land, the owner shall provide a reasonable estimate on the stumpage value of the forest products to be cut and properly paint or blaze any boundaries located within fifty feet of the cutting area.

No work may commence until a final work order, with a designated file number, is issued to the landowner by said director or his agent except as hereinafter provided.

The licensed timber harvester shall have a copy of the final work order on the site whenever work is done, for inspection by the director or his agent, who shall give final approval or disapproval to the operation and report in writing to said director the nature of the operation, its extent, the amount of product cut, and such other information as said director may require.

In the event that the director, or his agent, does not act on the notice of intent within the designated ten days from day of receipt of the notice, work may commence, except in wetland areas as defined in section forty of chapter one hundred and thirty-one, in conformity with the submitted plan, provided the licensed timber harvester shall have a copy of the submitted plan on the site of the operation whenever work is done.

An applicant landowner or licensed timber harvester who is aggrieved by any decision of the director or his agent may appeal said decision within ten days of receipt of the decision to the director or his designee who shall act as hearing officer and will hold an informal hearing within ten days and render his written decision to said aggrieved party within five days of the hearing. An applicant landowner or licensed timber harvester further aggrieved by the decision of the director may appeal said decision within thirty days to the superior court.

Chapter 132: Section 43. Failure to give notice.

Section 43. Whoever, not being exempt from section forty-two and forty-three under the provisions of section forty-four, fails to give notice and a written plan, to said director or his agent as provided by said section forty-two, or whoever, either as land or stumpage owner or independent contractor fails to follow the plan of operations approved or not disapproved by said director or his agent shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars for each acre of land on which cutting occurred in violation of, or in the absence of, said plan and final work order except as provided by section forty-two. The director or his agent is hereby authorized to issue a stop order to shut down immediately any operation that fails to meet the law or regulations until such deficiency is corrected to the satisfaction of the director's agent, or if not corrected, until the director holds a hearing relative to revocation of the harvester's license as provided in section forty-six.

Chapter 132: Section 44. Exempted cuttings.

Section 44. The provisions of sections forty-two and forty-three shall not apply to (1) cutting by an owner or tenant of any forest product for his own noncommercial use; (2) cutting or sale of such products by any owner to an amount not exceeding twenty-five thousand board feet or fifty cords on any parcel of land at any one time; (3) cutting for clearance or maintenance on rights of way pertaining to public utilities and public highways; (4) clearing land for building or for purposes of cultivation or (5) maintenance cutting in pastures.

Chapter 132: Section 46. License to harvest forest products.

Section 46. No person, firm or corporation engaged in the business of harvesting timber or other forest products for hire or profit shall cut such products on land devoted to forest purposes and for purposes not exempted by section forty-four without first obtaining a license to do so from the director who is hereby authorized to issue such licenses, and to withhold or revoke such licenses after hearing for failure to comply with sections forty-two to forty-six, inclusive. Applicants shall demonstrate general familiarity with the laws of the commonwealth that concern timber harvesting and provide the director such reasonable information as he may require concerning the amount and type of forest products cut by him during the previous year. The fee for the issuance of such license, which shall expire on June thirtieth of each year, shall be determined annually by the commissioner of administration under the provision of section three B of chapter seven for the filing thereof. Each licensed timber harvester shall, upon request, be provided with a copy of current laws and regulations concerning timber harvesting in the commonwealth.

Whoever violates any provision of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars for each violation. The superior court shall have jurisdiction in equity to enforce the provisions of sections forty-two to forty-six, inclusive, and remedy any violations thereof.

SLASH LAW

Chapter 48: Section 16. Definitions.

Section 16. For the purposes of this section and section sixteen A, the following words and phrases shall have the following meanings:

"Forest or woods road", any permanently maintained road that is not a highway, the primary use of which is access to forest lands for the purpose of forest management or presuppression and suppression of forest fires.

"Highway", any state road or land maintained by the department of highways of the commonwealth or any municipal or county maintained road, or private road other than a forest or woods road, of sufficient width to permit the simultaneous passage of two or more vehicles.

"Slash", tops, branches, damaged trees, slabs, sawdust from milling operations, or debris left from logging or land clearing operations.

Every owner, lessee, tenant or occupant of lands, or their agents or employees, or any such person or entity holding rights or interest in said land or the timber thereon, or any rights or interests therein, except electric, telephone and telegraph companies, who cuts or permits the cutting of brush, wood or timber on lands which border upon woodland of another, or upon a highway or railroad location, or upon any forest or woods road to which the public has authorized access, shall dispose of the slash caused by such cutting in accordance with the following manner:

(a) hardwood slash shall not remain more than two feet above the ground within forty feet of any woodland of another, or of any railroad location, or of the outer edge of the boundary of any highway, or twenty feet from the outer edge of any forest or woods road;

(b) softwood slash shall not remain on the ground within forty feet of any woodland of another, or of any railroad location, or of the outer edge of the boundary of any highway, and shall not lie more than two feet above the ground between forty feet and one hundred feet of the outer edge of the boundary of any highway, or twenty-five feet from the edge of any forest or woods road;

(c) all slash resulting from such cutting operations shall be disposed of in such a manner as to minimize the danger from fire. No slash shall be permitted within twenty-five feet of any continuously flowing brook or stream, pond, river or water supply. The director of the division of forests and parks may make exceptions to this procedure in the preparation or approval of cutting plans; provided, however, that any exceptions made on lands adjacent to a state highway shall be approved by the commissioner of the department of highways.

This section shall apply to cutting operations subject to the provisions of chapter one hundred and thirty-two.

Chapter 48: Section 16A. Handling of slash.

Section 16A. Every owner, lessee, tenant or occupant of lands, or their agents or employees, or any such person or entity holding rights or interest in said lands or the timber thereon, or of any rights or interests therein, except electric, telephone and telegraph companies, who cuts or permits the cutting of brush, wood or timber on lands which border upon woodland of another, or upon a highway or railroad location, shall dispose of the slash caused by such cutting in such a manner that the same will not remain on the ground within forty feet of any woodland of another, or of any railroad location, or within one hundred feet from the center of any highway, and all slash resulting from such cutting operations shall be cut and scattered in such a manner as to minimize the danger from fire. Wherever multiple highway systems exist adjacent to cuttings, no slash shall be permitted within one hundred feet from the outer edge of the highway. No slash shall be permitted within twenty-five feet of any brook, stream, pond, river or water supply. (Amended by 1989, 457, Sec. 2 eff. 1-25-90.)

This section shall apply to cutting or clearing operations not subject to the provisions of chapter one hundred and thirty-two.

Chapter 48: Section 17. Disposition of slash cut near highways.

Section 17. Any person who cuts or causes to be cut trees, brush or undergrowth within the limits of any highway, shall dispose of the slash and brush then and there resulting from such cutting in such a manner that the same will not remain on the ground within the limits of said highway.

Chapter 48: Section 18. Disposition of slash cut by public utility companies.

Section 18. Electric, telephone and telegraph companies which, at the time of erecting their transmission lines, cut or cause to be cut brush, wood or timber on land which borders upon woodland of another, or upon a highway or railroad location, shall dispose of the slash caused by such cutting in such a manner that the same will not remain on the ground within forty feet of any woodland of another, or of any highway or railroad location; such companies which after the erection of their lines trim or cut brush, wood or timber which has grown up since the line was erected, and which borders upon woodland of another, or upon a highway or railroad location, shall, upon the request of the forester, and within a time limit set by him, dispose of the slash of second or subsequent cuttings if the same in his opinion constitutes a menace to adjoining property.