Governor signs Booher private forestland management bills

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Sen. Darwin Booher’s legislation to help property owners improve the management of their private forestlands was signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday.

“Michigan is home to about 11 million acres of private land, but only 20 percent of that land is being actively managed,” said Booher, R-Evart. “With these reforms, we are encouraging the effective management of Michigan’s private forestlands, which could bring about tremendous opportunities for increased jobs, recreation and conservation.”

Senate Bill 56, now Public Act 45 of 2013, allows conservation districts to advise landowners about the value of managing their land for timber harvest, habitat, conservation and recreation, while PA 42 (SB 51) encourages landowners to enroll in the Qualified Forest Program and actively manage their forestland.

“This is about developing a proactive partnership between landowners, conservation districts, consulting foresters, loggers and the entire forest products industry to work toward the healthy management of our forests,” Booher said.  “It will help provide a steady, future supply of timber, providing more certainty for our mills and timber industry for their current operations and for possible expansions.”

Other highlights in the nine-bill package (Public Acts 42-50) include:

  • Transferring oversight of the Qualified Forest program, from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development;
  • Allowing buildings to be on property enrolled in the Qualified Forest program;
  • Reducing the punitive nature of the recapture penalty tax if the land is withdrawn from the program;
  • Adding forest management as a consideration under the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP);
  • 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.

The Qualified Forest Program encourages private landowners to manage their land for forestry by providing a property tax reduction as an incentive. A landowner must obtain a forest management plan written by a qualified forester and meet other minimum requirements to qualify. 

Landowners who meet the qualifications must apply to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to obtain an exemption from school operating taxes.  Enrollees also gain protection from the pop-up tax upon future sale as long as the property continues to be managed under the program requirements.

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Editor’s Note: A photograph of Booher at the bill signing is available by visiting the senator’s website at: www.SenatorDarwinBooher.com. Click on “Photowire.”

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