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Contact information
Use the Forestry Assistance Locator to find cooperating foresters, DNR service foresters or tax law forestry specialists for your county.
View the current Directory of Foresters [PDF].

Forest tax laws

Wisconsin's forest tax laws encourage sustainable forest management on private lands by providing a property tax incentive to landowners. Two different forest tax law programs currently exist: the Managed Forest Law (MFL) and the Forest Crop Law (FCL).

Both programs encourage forest management through a written management plan that incorporates landowner objectives, timber management, wildlife management, water quality and the environment as a whole to create a healthy and productive forest. In exchange for following a written management plan and program rules, landowners pay forest tax law program rates in lieu of regular property taxes.

You can learn more about current rules and requirements of the MFL program by visiting the MFL webpage and the current program summary [PDF].

Make sure to check out the forest tax help center for frequently asked questions or contact your tax law forestry specialist for additional inquiries.

Important annual deadlines

The form deadlines below are for the request to be effective the following Jan. 1.

Managed Forest Law
MFL form Deadline
Application for New Entry or Renewal June 1
Public Access Modification Request Dec. 1
Declaration of Withdrawal Dec. 1
Forest Crop Law
FCL form Deadline
Declaration of Withdrawal Oct. 1
Payment for Declaration of Withdrawal Nov. 20

Brief history of forest tax laws

The state's forestry program was created after the cutover years of 1800s, when the two main industries were logging and agriculture, many of the state's forests were cut to provide building materials for city expansion and farmland. Loggers worked year round clearing one forest after another without any reforestation or management plans. By the beginning of the 20th century, the industry started to decline and logging companies sold their properties to upstart farmers, but with many of the farms located in the north, their operations failed due to unfit soil conditions and short growing seasons. Farmers that were unable to pay their property taxes abandoned their properties and their lands were acquired by the county.

With the state nearly out of timber, the Wisconsin State Legislature decided it was in the state's best interest to create a forestry program that would manage and restore Wisconsin's forest lands. In 1904, the first state forester was appointed to develop a forestry program and restore Wisconsin's natural resources. Fire and public forestry programs were established to prevent wildfires, assess forest health and produce seedlings for reforestation. Recognizing that roughly 57% of forested lands in Wisconsin were privately owned, the state realized they needed a private landowner program that would assist landowners with their property taxes while their forests matured.

In 1927, the Forest Crop Law (FCL) was created to provide landowners with reduced property taxes if they agree to sustainably manage their forest lands. By the end of 1986, the last year of its enrollment, the FCL program had enrolled 1,507,571.55 acres of private forestry land. It was succeeded by the Managed Forest Law (MFL), which continued FCL's main goal—to give private landowners a tax incentive to sustainably manage their forest lands according to sound forestry practices.

Today, the MFL program is the largest incentive program for private landowners in the state with over 3 million acres enrolled. MFL incorporates landowner's goals and objectives with sound forestry practices to create a management plan that is specific to the property. Management plans includes timber harvesting, wildlife management, water quality and recreation to maintain a healthy and productive forest. Sustainable forest management benefits Wisconsin's economy, hunting, fishing, wildlife, recreation, soils, waterways, air quality and renews our beautiful forests for everyone to enjoy.

Last revised: Thursday August 03 2017