Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



Major Professor

Wayne Clatterbuck

Committee Members

Donald Hodges


Tennessee’s Greenbelt Law, also known as the Agricultural, Forest, and Open Space (AFOS) Land Act of 1976 (Appendix A), was explored to understand forest landowners’ participation in the Greenbelt Program and how counties implement the state’s Greenbelt Law as well as to determine if there is variability in the law’s administration. According to Tennessee’s property tax database, all counties in Tennessee implement the Greenbelt Law and have greenbelt parcels under the agriculture designation (Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury 2012). However, some counties do not use the law’s forest designation, and few counties use the open space classification. Property assessors in 14 counties were interviewed and forest landowners enrolled in the Greenbelt Program in eight counties were surveyed concerning the Greenbelt Law. Realizing that more populated counties would probably have disparities concerning current use and market values, we selected counties that were not in metro areas or in the rural-urban interface in order to have more consistent demographics and information. Interviews with tax assessors revealed inconsistencies in the following: classification of land as agriculture, forest, or open space; whether forest management plans (FMPs) for the forest designation were required as specified in the state law and; forms used to apply for the Greenbelt Program. The Greenbelt Law is implemented and monitored by each of Tennessee’s 95 counties. Not surprisingly, each county interprets, implements, and monitors the law somewhat differently. Those differences may create concerns about equity, standardization, and application of the forest and agriculture designations across the state. Nevertheless, landowners enrolled in the Greenbelt Program receive a property tax savings as an incentive not to develop properties in order to retain the current-use designation. The disparity of how county assessors implement the statewide greenbelt law limits the ability to assess the law's impact on land conservation other than the property tax saving.

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