|The report contains a summary of the provisions the Clean and Green Act, December 19, 1974 (P.L.973, No.319), a legislative history and a summary of other state programs intended to conserve farmland and forestland. Act 319 provides for property tax assessments of open space land based on use, as opposed to the usual full market value assessments.
The report further discusses the issue of whether or not the preservation of open space is a significant public concern and presents the historical data regarding the patterns of forest and farm acreage in Pennsylvania. Most of the recent losses in farm and forest acreage predate the enactment of the Clean and Green Act, but it is not clear if the Act has succeeded in retarding use conversion.
Extensive data are also presented regarding the fiscal impact of the program on the state as a whole and on the local school districts and municipalities. While the statewide impact of the program has shifted only 1.53 percent of the real estate tax burden from open space owners to other taxpayers, in certain municipalities and school districts the tax shift reaches 20 percent or higher.
The report concludes by commenting on policy concerns raised by interested groups in connection with the program. The Act is administered by the county assessors, with regulatory guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. There is fairly wide agreement that the program is not uniformly administered from county to county, that the Act assists owners who do not make significant open space benefits, and that the Act is unclear about eligibility and other key issues.