Agriculturally Speaking for October 23, 2015: State sees solid accomplishments in the management of private forestland
By Jamie Clover Adams, Director, MI Department of Agriculture and Rural Development
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development works in partnership with our state’s local conservation districts and private landowners to increase the sustainable management of private forestland through the development of personalized forest management plans. A survey conducted by Michigan State University of private forest landowners concluded that less than 20 percent of the 11 million acre resource was actively being managed.
Private forestland owners need only look to their local conservation district for expertise and technical assistance in managing their timber resources and habitat. MDARD provides funding to 20 conservation districts in the upper and lower peninsulas to provide service to 49 counties. Last year, these conservation district foresters conducted over 2,000 site visits with private landowners across the state.
The conservation district foresters work one-on-one with the landowners to provide technical assistance and referral to the private sector to develop the forest management plan. In 2015, 426 forest management plans were developed by the private sector, through referrals, covering more than 48,000 acres of privately owned woodlots.
As part of our dedication to creating sustainably managed private forestland, MDARD provides landowners the opportunity to enroll in the Qualified Forest Program. This program allows landowners of 20 to 640 acres to receive a tax exemption in exchange for agreeing to follow a written forest management plan. Currently, over 2,450 applications for enrollment have been received totaling 318,453 acres of privately owned forestland.
MDARD staff recently completed the state’s first Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program (MAEAP) verification in the Forest, Wetlands, and Habitat System in Stephenson in Menominee County. This verification underscores agricultural producers’ and landowners’ long-term commitment to protecting the environment while maintaining economic success. There are numerous other landowners in the process of having their land verified. Michigan is leading the way nationwide in effective stewardship practices with the voluntary, incentive-based MAEAP.
Not only are we seeing increased market demand for Michigan’s quality timber and forest products domestically, we are also seeing increased global demands. In 2015, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, in collaboration with MDARD, helped Michigan’s forest product businesses secure over $25.8 million in export sales to 62 countries. This joint effort supports Governor Rick Snyder’s 2013 Forest Product Summit goals to grow Michigan’s forest products sector and value-added forest product exports.
Through strong partnerships there is tremendous economic potential in expanding the state’s timber and forest products footprint both nationally and globally. Michigan landowners can learn more about our forestry resources by visiting www.michigan.gov/mifap and www.michigan.gov/qfp, or by watching this video.