(a) The Legislature finds and declares that the public welfare is enhanced by encouraging and sustaining the abundance of high quality forest land within the state; that economic pressures may force industrial, residential or other land development inconsistent with sustaining the forests; and that tax policy should provide an incentive for private owners of forest land to preserve the character and use of land as forest land and to make management decisions which enhance the quality of the future forest.
(b) In exercising the authority granted by the provisions of section fifty-three, article VI of the Constitution of West Virginia, the Legislature makes the following declarations of its intent:
(1) Notwithstanding the provisions of section twenty-four, article three of this chapter, timberland certified by the Division of Forestry as managed timberland shall be valued as managed timberland as provided in this article when it is managed under a cooperative contract with the Division of Forestry and the certification has not been surrendered by the owner of the property or revoked by the director of the Division of Forestry.
The Division of Forestry shall, at the time of contracting, notify the owner that the owner shall incur a penalty as set forth in section five-a, article three of this chapter if the owner fails to provide written notice to the county assessor of a change in use of the managed timberland.
(2) Property certified as managed timberland which prior to certification is properly taxed in Class II, as defined in section five, article eight of this chapter and section one, article X of the Constitution of West Virginia, may not be reclassified to Class III or Class IV, as defined in section five, article eight of this chapter, merely because the property is certified as managed timberland unless there is some other event or change in the use of the property that disqualifies it from being taxed in Class II.
(c) To aid the Legislature in assessing the impact of the managed timberland program on the State of West Virginia, the Division of Forestry and the Tax Commissioner, on or before December 31, 2001, and on December 31, each year thereafter, shall report in writing to the Joint Committee on Government and Finance of the Legislature or its designated subcommittee. The Tax Commissioner shall include in his or her report a complete and accurate assessment of the impact of the managed timberland program on the tax collections of the state, including projected increases or decreases in tax collection. The Division of Forestry shall include in its report detailed information on the number of acres designated as managed timberland and any identified impacts of the program on the state's timber industry.