- The Forest Legacy Program seeks to protect privately owned and environmentally significant forest land from being converted to non-forest uses. This program is a strictly voluntary program and involves the acquisition of land in fee ownership or rights in land through a conservation easement. If a conservation easement is acquired, the land remains in private ownership but does provide for public access. The Forest Legacy Program encourages partnerships with local governments and land trusts, recognizing the important contributions that private landowners, local communities, and environmental organizations make to forest conservation efforts.
Development of Michigan's privately owned forests poses an increasing threat to maintaining the integrity of Michigan's valuable privately owned forest base. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) equal opportunity statement.
Intact forest lands supply timber products, wildlife habitat, soil and watershed protection, aesthetics, and recreational opportunities. However, conversion of these forests to housing developments, shopping malls and other development activities, takes away the benefits these forests provide to Michigan's citizens.
Local governments commonly guide development away from the most sensitive areas through traditional land use controls (like zoning and performance standards). However, sometimes these measures are not sufficient to fully protect privately owned and environmentally significant forest lands.
Michigan's Forest Legacy Program (FLP) is in partnership with USDA Forest Service. Its overarching goal is to protect privately owned and environmentally significant forest lands from being converted to non-forest uses. FLP is an entirely voluntary program. It seeks to accomplish this by acquisition of conservation easements, legally binding agreements transferring a negotiated set of property rights from one party to another, without removing the property from private ownership. As stated in the Michigan's Assessment of Need, conservation easements purchased using FLP funds will restrict development, require sustainable forestry practices, and protect a variety of other values as stated in the Means for Protection section described in Michigan's Assessment of Need.
Michigan's FLP encourages partnerships with local governments and land trusts, recognizing the important contributions landowners, communities and private organizations make to conservation efforts.
Michigan's Forest Legacy Program requires that the rights of public access be conveyed to the State on all land or interests in land that is acquired with Forest Legacy Program Funding.
Participation in Forest Legacy is limited to private forest landowners. To qualify, landowners are required to prepare a multiple resource management plan as part of the conservation easement acquisition. The federal government may fund up to 75 percent of program costs, with at least 25 percent coming from private, state or local sources. In addition to gains associated with the sale or donation of property rights, many landowners may also benefit from reduced taxes associated with limits placed on land use.
Assessment of Need (AON)
In order to participate in the national Forest Legacy Program (FLP), Michigan must conduct an Assessment of Need (AON)
The AON contains an assessment of the forests and forest uses, a description of forces that are converting forests to nonforest uses, describes Eligibility Criteria developed by the State to identify important forest areas to be proposed as Forest Legacy Areas (FLA), and acts as a guide to implementation of FLP in the State
The AON provides an analysis regarding what defines "threatened" and "environmentally important forests". The AON also outlines a how Michigan's Forest Legacy Program will evaluate and prioritize proposed projects. Michigan's AON includes relevant information about both public and private lands, addresses the issue of how best to maintain the integrity of forest land for future generations as well as addressing a number of pertinent forest land issues identified by the State.
Michigan's AON is based on an earlier report developed for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources by the Michigan Chapter of the Nature Conservancy entitled, "State of Michigan Forest Legacy Program, Assessment of Need," published in December, 2002. Both reports were developed in consultation with Michigan State Forest Stewardship Advisory Committee and approved by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.