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Florida forest landowners still recovering financially from Hurricane Michael

Two men stand on a dirt road and look in dismay at a pile of broken timber logs.
Bobby Caina Calvan
AP Photo
In this Oct. 5, 2019 photo, Daniel Leonard and his father Joe, right, stand near a heap of lumber on their family's property. The massive storm killed more than two dozen people in northern Florida, destroyed hundreds of homes and brought catastrophic damage to the region’s timber industry.

An organization that represents forest landowners says in Florida, many are still recovering from Hurricane Michael. So the association is asking Congress to pass legislation that would help Panhandle residents recover their lands and losses.

It's been three years since Hurricane Michael battered Florida. Forest Landowners Association CEO Scott Jones said back then, the storm's strong winds twisted trees.

"And so they couldn't be harvested, they couldn't be sawn for lumber. I mean, the value goes from $1,000, $1,500 an acre to $0 because you can't sell your trees," Jones told WFSU.

During the interview, he said some landowners don't have the money to replant their trees. As a result, his association is advocating for Congress to pass the Disaster Reforestation Act. Jones said it changes the tax code to benefit forest landowners.

"You can say I lost, you know, x number of dollars, worth of income, and I can say I'll reduce that, I'll count that as a loss and reduce my overall taxable income for that year, by that amount, and that either means I pay less taxes that year, or I get a refund that year," Jones said.

Jones said recovering some of those losses could help landowners replant trees rather than converting their land to other uses. He said the legislation is a better long-term solution to help forest landowners get relief as storms intensify.

Robbie Gaffney graduated from Florida State University with degrees in Digital Media Production and Creative Writing. Before working at WFSU, they recorded FSU’s basketball and baseball games for Seminole Productions as well as interned for the PBS Station in Largo, Florida. Robbie loves playing video games such as Shadow of the Colossus, Animal Crossing, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. Their other hobbies include sleeping and watching anime.