New legislation set to change managed forest programme in US state

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New legislation has been signed that looks set to change the managed forest programme in one US state. This could, in turn, lead to changes for forest management — and forestry investors — across the country.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin has recently signed Senate Bill 434, which will enable forest landowners to continue receiving property tax deductions, while preventing the public using more of their forested land.

The bill is a major change to Wisconsin’s managed forest law, as not only does it limit public use of forest land, but it will also lead to vast amount of money being awarded to local government units en route to the Department of Natural Resources.

Currently, forest owners are entitled to property tax breaks if they toe the line with regards to the state’s timber management plans. This includes cutting timber in a sustainable manner, as well as opening their forest land to the general public for activities such as fishing, hunting and hiking. Those owners who do not allow the public onto their land must pay a fee and receive lower tax deductions. The new bill puts a limit on the amount of closed land that owners are allowed — 320 acres — and also enables land owners to lease out their acreage if they choose to do so. The legislation also does away with local taxes on any timber that has been harvested from the forest land — news which could be of interest to potential forestry investors in the state.

According to the Governor’s office, managed forest land currently makes up around 25 per cent of the timber that is used in the state of Wisconsin’s $22.9 billion forest industry. This new legislation could help to ensure that there is a steady stream of timber available to meet the ongoing demands for wood and wood products from Wisconsin’s paper mills and other plants.

Governor Walker released a statement following the signing of the new legislation: “This bill keeps the managed forest law attractive to landowners, industry, local governments and outdoor recreationists.”

Highlighting the ongoing emphasis on forest maintenance and protection taking place in Wisconsin,
Governor Walker recently appointed State Representative Nick Milroy of South Range to the Council on Forestry.

The council, which was created in 2002, helps to lead sustainable forestry initiatives in Wisconsin, under a panel of leaders from across the sector. It offers advice to the Governor, legislature, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Commerce and a host of other state agencies on forestry-related issues in the state,

Mr Milroy represents one of the most heavily forested counties in the state, and it is also home to numerous businesses that rely on the state’s forestry and timber industry. Across the entire state, more than 62,000 people are employed in this sector.

Mr Milroy said that he “looks forward to working with fellow council members to address some of the pressing issues related to Wisconsin’s forests.”

The current issues being focused on by the forestry council include timber supply, the managed forest law programme, forest certification, deer impacts on Wisconsin forests and forestry education.

James Barrett, GWD Forestry spokesman, said: “It is clear that the sustainable management of forested land across Wisconsin is — and should be — a priority for the state. Managing forests in the best way possible not only helps to protect the precious land itself, but also helps to ensure an ongoing supply of wood to meet the demand from the wood products industry, which is booming. It look likely that lessons will be learned from this legislation that has been signed in Wisconsin that could well benefit the rest of the United States in time.”

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