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Forest Legacy Program nominations due May 1; additional program opportunities to come later this year

From the trout-fishing haven of the Pilgrim River on the Keweenaw Peninsula to prime elk habitat in the Pigeon River Country State Forest, Michigan has more than 160,000 acres of environmentally sensitive forests available for public use through the federal Forest Legacy Program.  

Administered by the U.S. Forest Service with the land rights held by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the program uses federal and matching funds to protect environmentally important forests by purchasing property outright or acquiring development rights through a working forest conservation easement.

Such forests are seen as worthy of special care because of their contributions to healthy fish and wildlife habitat and contributions to the quality of Michigan's air and water. They also are wonderful places for people to get out and have fun in nature. 

Nomination applications are due May 1 for the nationally competitive program.

“In addition to securing property rights to ensure that forests are managed sustainably, the Forest Legacy Program supports healthy forest benefits such as wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, clean water and clean air,” said Kerry Heckman, forest land administrator for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. 

Program helps working forests thrive

The program provides an opportunity for landowners to keep forests as forests, encourages sustainable management and supports strong markets for forest products. 

All interests in land acquired by the Forest Legacy Program last forever, and agreements must contain language to ensure that those rights are perpetual. Michigan’s program also requires that land or rights in land are open to the public, at least for nonmotorized access. Landowners who don’t have an existing forest management plan will need to create one before a project can be completed. 

The DNR will review and prioritize eligible projects and may submit the top three to compete nationally for funding. Projects nominated by May 1 will compete for funding in the fiscal year 2025 federal budget, which begins Oct. 1, 2024. The state can request up to $20 million for projects. 

The Forest Legacy Program has also benefited from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. As a result, there will be additional opportunities in the coming months for projects that will complement the existing Forest Legacy Program. Information on those opportunities and how projects can be nominated will be provided as it becomes available.

How to apply

Find an application or learn more at Additional information is also contained in the landscape assessment associated with Michigan’s Forest Action Plan.

Contact: Kerry Heckman, 517-643-1256