Wisconsin Managed Forest Law:
A Brief History and How to Legally Protect Your Forests
By: Atty. Logan Wood
While many people know Wisconsin as “America’s Dairyland,” this was not always the case. Long before agriculture took over, Wisconsin used to be known for their lumber production. The southern parts of Wisconsin were largely cleared of their trees in the 1800s to make way for agriculture, with the northern parts of Wisconsin heavily cut for timber in the early 1900s. In fact, so much timber was harvested, that by 1893, Wisconsin was a world leader in lumber production at more than 3.5 billion board feet produced annually.
While the destruction of Wisconsin’s forests did not go unnoticed, it was not until 1927 that the state was able to create the Forest Crop Law, the predecessor to the modern Managed Forest Law Today, of Wisconsin’s approximately 35 million acres of land, over 17 million acres are forested. Wisconsin has come a long way since the 1900s and the success of sustainable planning could not have been done without all kinds of groups working together. However, the most important and largest group is private ownership consisting of 57 percent of all forested land. Municipalities own 15 percent, followed by the federal government owning 10 percent, the forest industry owning 7 percent, the state owning 5 percent, private corporations owning 4 percent and tribal lands consisting of 2 percent.
Private ownership continues to increase due in large part to the increased presence of second homes within the forests. From 1984 through 2006, each year saw an average of 6,454 new parcels being carved out from Wisconsin’s forests, totaling over 140,000 new parcels. This means that ownership size is decreasing while development is increasing.
While Wisconsin has come a long way, there are still programs landowners can take advantage of to continue the support of sustainable forestry. Today, the Managed Forest Law Program authorizes landowners to legally protect their forests by participating in sustainable forestry of private woodlands. To be eligible, a landowner must have 20 acres of contiguous land that is at least 80 percent woodlands. Additionally, these landowners then commit to either a 25 or 50-year sustainable forest management plan . In exchange for this commitment, landowners pay an acreage share tax instead of the regular property tax. This results in a substantially lower annual cost to the landowner.
If you would like more information about this process, or want help in applying for this program, please feel free to reach out to the Attorneys at Steimle Birschbach, LLC as we remain fully available to serve our clients during this time.
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This blog post is provided for informational purposes only and by its very nature is general. This information is not intended as legal advice.