Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

MI: State commercial forest land rules vary greatly

Editor’s note: This is the third and final story in a series
examining the management issues on land enrolled under the
Commercial Forest Act.

Marquette, Mich. – As the Commercial Forest Act rules come into
clearer focus to user groups and landowners, hunters are
discovering that some of their traditional and legal hunting
practices are banned on some CF lands open to hunting. In addition,
some landowners have discovered they can legally block off
thousands of acres to easy access and, through implementing CF
rules on their land, can seriously restrict some types of
hunting.

Ancillary activities, those associated with hunting, such as the
use of treestands, blinds and bait, may be legally prohibited by CF
landowners. Land may also be fenced and gated, restricting access
to all except a fit person willing to hike in a day and spend the
night. Because a CF landowner can also prohibit camping, this makes
some CF land technically inaccessible.

According to Shirley Businski, CF program leader for the DNR in
Lansing, although a CF landowner can prohibit some activities that
are deemed legal in the hunting regulations, there is a limit as to
how far they can go. They can’t, for example, prohibit the use of a
rifle during the rifle deer season or prohibit the use of live bait
on a stream open to bait fishing.

“A landowner cannot prohibit the use of a bow, rifle or
muzzleloader during the open seasons for them,” Businski
said.

According to Lt. Tim Robson, a DNR conservation officer in
Marquette, a landowner can’t put antler restrictions in place on
their land, or change the legal size limit or bag limit on fish and
game. The department sets those regulations for both public and
private lands.

Not all CF landowners are restrictive. Plum Creek has rules that
are even more liberal than rules on state land. For example, you
don’t need a camping permit to camp on Plum Creek land.

“Basically, if you can do it on state land, you can do it on Plum
Creek land,” said Charlie Becker, Plum Creek’s resource supervisor
for the east Upper Peninsula.

Plum Creek also allows other activities such as hiking and bird
watching on its land, activities not allowed on some CF
lands.

“We allow camping with no permit and we only ask that you pack out
what you bring in and limit your stay in one place to two weeks,”
Becker said. “Blinds and treestand are allowed on Plumb Creek land
too, as long as you don’t penetrate the bark with screws, nails or
screw-in treesteps.”

Plum Creek also asks that you remove your blind at the end of the
season.

Things that could get you in trouble on Plumb Creek land, or any
CF land for that matter, include littering, cutting or trimming of
any tree, or ORV use off of established roads.

“We highly encourage the use of our land for recreation,” Becker
said. “All we ask in return is that it be treated with
respect.”

If Plumb Creek can be touted as the most user-friendly CF landowner
in the state, The Forestland Group LLC might be considered the
least user friendly. It owns a total of 440,000 acres of CF land;
247,806 acres of that land make up the Great Lakes Forest Project,
known as the “U.P. Big Deal.” It creates the largest conservation
easement in the state.

Although Forestland Group allows activities other than hunting and
fishing, such as hiking, mushroom picking, snowshoeing,
cross-country skiing and even snowmobiling in some corridors, it
has become increasingly harder to hunt on their land over the past
few years, according to many hunters. Access roads have been gated
and in some areas there are signs prohibiting baiting.

“We do not allow camping and want blinds and treestands removed
daily or not used at all,” said Shawn Hagen, a spokesperson for The
Forestland Group.

In areas where there are no signs prohibiting baiting, The
Forestland Group requires deer and bear bait be removed every night
at the end of hunting hours. Trail cameras show deer and bear visit
baits mostly at night, which is also when the animals become
acclimated to coming into bait. This makes baiting for deer, a
legal method in Michigan, for the most part ineffective

With some roads being gated, making it virtually impossible to put
down, follow and pick up bear hounds, and the nightly removal
requirement for baiting, The Forestland Group has in effect banned
legal and effective bear-hunting techniques on its land.

According to Hagen, the baiting ban and nightly removal rules stem
from problems with commercial guiding on their land. Guiding on CF
lands is an illegal practice. But there may be another reason why
The Forestland Group implemented its strict rules.

“We simply don’t want deer drawn to our property,” he said.

As the word spreads to hunters that things they have been doing for
decades become banned on these lands the discontent grows.

“These companies are being given huge tax breaks (in exchange for
keeping the land open to hunting and trapping) and are in effect
keeping me and others from using effective hunting methods on their
lands,” said bear hunter Chuck Ryall from Gwinn. “Are hunters
getting enough in return…?”

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