Booher private forestland management bills approved by Senate

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LANSING—The Michigan Senate on Tuesday approved Sen. Darwin Booher’s legislation to help educate property owners on the benefits of managing private land for timber harvest, habitat development and recreation.

“The goal of this package is to encourage management of Michigan’s private forestlands by helping landowners learn about the advantages of managing their land,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Only 20 percent of the state’s 11 million acres of private land is actively managed. That means there is great potential for increased economic opportunities through enhanced land management. This is especially true for our forestlands.”

Senate Bill 56 would allow conservation districts to advise landowners about the value of managing their land for timber harvest, habitat, conservation and recreation, while SB 51 would implement changes to the Qualified Forest Program to encourage landowners to enroll in the program and actively manage their forestland.

Other highlights in the nine-bill Senate package include:
• Transferring oversight of the Qualified Forest program, from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development;
• Requiring the Environmental Assurance Advisory Council to develop an assessment tool designed to help landowners assess the value of managing their lands;
• Updating the Commercial Forest program to allow current enrollees to transfer to the Qualified Forest Program for one year without being penalized; and
• Making lands eligible for the 18-mill agricultural exemption if more than half of the acreage is devoted for a combination of agricultural use and use as qualified forest land.

“If enacted into law, these proactive initiatives could help develop a mutually beneficial partnership between landowners and conservation districts to achieve a common goal – the effective and healthy management of private forests,” Booher said.

SBs 51-59 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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