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Commercial Forest Program

A worker operates machinery during an aspen tree harvest

Commercial Forest Program

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About the Commercial Forest Program

Manage your forest for long-term timber production and get reduced taxes. Landowners can withdraw from the program at any time. The State of Michigan makes an annual payment to counties with commercial forest lands to make up for lost local tax revenue.

Commercial activity on Commercial Forest lands is not allowed for any purpose other than forestry or oil and gas extraction.

View Commercial Forest Program maps

Information for local government

Tax year reports, title transfers, tribal land info, payment calculations and more.

View tax and payment data

Program summary info sheet

Download a printable pdf summarizing program details.

Program summary

Program contacts

Karen Maidlow

General questions and program enrollment or withdrawal.

517-284-5849

Gary Willis

Forestry/hunting inquiries
West of Marquette region

906-201-4602

John Hamel (Acting)

Forestry/hunting inquiries
Central and Eastern region

906-251-0729

Mike Hanley

Forestry/hunting inquiries
Lower Peninsula Region 

989-251-8004

white tailed deer herd in a forest opening

Public access to commercial forest lands for hunting and fishing

More than 2.2 million acres of private lands enrolled in the Commercial Forest Program are open to public foot traffic for hunting, trapping and fishing. Any other activities require landowner permission. Respect these lands and private landowners. 

Commercial Forest lands are not posted or signed as commercial forests and may be fenced and/or gated. The presence of a fence or gate does not prohibit public access by foot to these lands for fishing or hunting. The owner may restrict public access during periods of logging to ensure public safety.

Use Commercial Forest Lands with respect

Although the general public has a right to fish and hunt on Commercial Forest lands, the property is privately owned and subject to normal private property rights.
 
A person engaging in an activity not allowed by a property owner may be criminally or civilly liable, or both.

The right to fish and hunt on the land does not extend to associated activities such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • Littering.
  • Camping.
  • Cutting shooting lanes, or cutting or destroying brush, trees or other plants for any purpose.
  • Using nails, bolts, wire, tree steps or other material or activities which harm, lessen or destroy the value of trees, or create a potentially hazardous wood-harvesting condition.
  • Temporarily or permanently abandoning of property, including tree stands or other hunting apparatus.
  • Constructing blinds or constructing or placing other structures, except for gathering dead materials found on the ground.
  • Target shooting or sighting-in firearms.
  • Using ORVs or other vehicles on private property. If vehicles are allowed by the property owner, care should be taken to avoid blocking access to roads or parking areas.

Program details and documents

  •  

    Applications may be submitted beginning Jan. 1 and must be postmarked or delivered no later than April 1. Mail complete applications to:
    Cashiers Office 
    P.O. Box 30451
    Lansing, MI 48909

     Application to List Land

  •  

    To be in compliance with the Commercial Forest statute, landowners must:

    • Adhere to commercial forest law and program rules 
    • Submit a recorded deed to prove ownership
    • Have a forest management plan that meets program requirements and submit a copy to the DNR
    • Notify us prior to cutting, harvesting or removing forest products
    • Adhere to prohibited land uses
    • Apply to remove sand, gravel, oil and gas
    • Ensure public foot access for hunting, trapping and fishing

     

  • Landowners are required to have a forest management plan written by a registered forester, and must submit a copy of the plan to the DNR. 

     

  • In 2006, the legislature set the commercial forest specific rate at $1.20 per acre per year through tax year 2011.

    The rate increases 5 cents every 5 years thereafter. 

    • Tax years 2017 – 2021 –  $1.30 per acre per year
    • Tax years 2022 – 2026 –  $1.35 per acre per year
    • and so on....

    Landowners will receive an annual tax bill from the township treasurer, usually in the winter tax cycle (i.e. billed in December, due in February).

    If commercial forest taxes become delinquent, the land is subject to the foreclosure process and tax sale, and can be declassified (removed from the program) by the DNR.

    • Landowners must notify us in writing 30 days prior to any removal of forest products on commercial forest land. All harvests must be in accordance with your management plan.
    • We approve the notifications for up to two years. If the harvesting operations are not completed in that time, the landowner must submit another notification.
    • If there are any changes to the harvest, the landowner must notify us. 

     

  •  

    Exploration for minerals and extraction of sand, gravel, oil and gas is allowed on commercial forest land. Landowners must apply and be approved prior to exploration or extraction. Extraction of any other minerals is not allowed, and the affected land must be withdrawn from the program prior to extraction. 

    Oil and Gas

    • Oil/gas wells must be permitted through the Department of Environmental Quality
    • Extraction is allowed; refining and/or storage of hydrocarbon liquids is not allowed
    • Underground natural gas storage/compression and associated structures are not allowed

    Sand and Gravel

    • Removal site must be no greater than 5 acres 
    • The sand/gravel must be utitlized by the landowner or the owner of the mineral rights for personal use
    • Sand and gravel can be sold to government or contractor undertaking a project for government

     

  • Explore: 

    Landowners must apply and be approved to explore for wind energy. Exploration includes meteorological towers, development leases, easements or license agreements

    Develop: 

    Prior to the construction of wind turbines, the landowner must withdraw the physical footprint of each turbine, associated buildings and adjacent areas that will be permanently removed from forest production.

     

  • Landowners must apply to withdraw land from the program.

    If the application is approved, the landowner will be sent a withdrawal certificate and instructions to pay the withdrawal penalty to the township treasurer.

    Withdrawn land is taxed as commercial forest land for the year in which the withdrawal occurs.

    Withdrawn land will be assessed and placed back on the general property tax rolls for the following year.

    • Land listed in the program can be bought or sold. A transfer of title to commercial forest land does not affect its status as commercial forest land. The new owner is responsible for program compliance and/or withdrawal.
    • Legally, it is the responsibility of the County Equalization Office to notify us of title transfers on CF land. If you wish to notify us directly, use the form below and attach copies of the recorded deed or land contract transferring title.
    • After receiving notification of a transfer of title, we will contact the new owner regarding compliance with the program and/or withdrawal of the land from the program.
    • Lack of DNR notification does not excuse the landowner from compliance with the program requirements.
  • Commercial forest land that is subject to a sustainable forest conservation easement, may be eligible for an additional 15 cent per acre tax incentive under Part 512. Land approved for Part 512 is taxed at a rate of 15 cents less per acre than the commercial forest specific tax.

    How to Apply

    Applications must be postmarked no later than April 1 of each year to be eligible for listing in Part 512 the following tax year. 

    Mail complete application to:
    Cashiers Office
    P.O. Box 30451 
    Lansing, MI 48909

    *The application is currently being updated and will be added to the website when final

    Part 512 requirements include:

    • compliance with commercial forest program,
    • the Conservation Easement must be granted in perpetuity to entities defined in statute,
    • the Conservation Easement must meet the definition in statute,
    • the forest land or the manager of the forest land must be 3rd party certified (FSC or SFI), and
    • the land must be open to the public for non-motorized recreational use (in addition to hunting and fishing).