Forestry hearing

Wisconsin’s private forest owners (who own about two-thirds of
the forested land in the state) have a chance Feb. 9 to give their
opinions on a bill that will change the Managed Forest Law in
Wisconsin.

Public testimony on Senate Bill 161 will be heard by the Senate
Committee on Agriculture, Forestry, and Higher Education in Room
411 South, beginning at 1 p.m. in the State Capitol in
Madison.

The bill is wide ranging and would instruct the DNR to designate
specific areas as forest enterprise areas, allow private landowners
with land in the Managed Forest Law (MFL) to appeal decisions by
the DNR to a third party, allow landowners who have land in MFL to
more easily add additional parcels of land to their MFL plan, allow
leasing of MFL land, and increase the amount that a private
landowner would pay for land in MFL that is closed to public
access.

Today, many private woodland owners, who have in the past been
proponents of the MFL program, feel that MFL is falling short. The
program was changed by the legislature from being “a contract” to
being “an agreement.” The results were that MFL landowners could no
longer lease their land for hunting and their efforts to manage
land proactively for wildlife habitat resulted in higher taxes. The
person who says they are opening their woodland to grazing and
“agricultural” purposes is rewarded with lower taxes for
agricultural land.

Some groups of private woodland owners support the idea of
establishing forest enterprise zones, providing landowners with
more flexibility of when to harvest timber, add other land to their
MFL program, and repeal the leasing prohibition that was passed in
2007.

But those same landowners do not support the portions of the bill
that would raise taxes on new land being enrolled into MFL. They
point to tax breaks provided to farmers of whom the state does not
require anything back from their agricultural products, while
woodland owners have to follow a specific management plan and pay a
yield tax on the crops (timber) they sell.

The way that the state’s tax system is set up, rewarding those who
“abuse” land by running livestock through the woods while
penalizing those who thoughtfully manage woodlands or take steps to
renew once-present wetlands, makes a conservationist scratch his
head.

You can learn more by attending the public hearing Feb. 9 in
Madison, or contacting your legislator. The committee is chaired by
Sen. Dale Schultz, and includes Senators Harsdorf, Kedzie, Moulton,
Hansen, Shilling, and King.

 

Categories: Wisconsin – Tim Eisele

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