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Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine

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February 2002

Forest Tax Law

Incentives to encourage sustainable forest management on private lands.

Natasha Kassulke & Kirsten Held


Overcutting of woodlands prompted the state in 1927 to start enacting forest tax laws to provide incentives to encourage sustainable forest management on private lands. These laws form binding agreements between the state and the private landowners, explains Ken Hujanen, DNR forest tax law coordinator.

Lands entered under forest tax laws have management plans that include harvesting and thinning timber, tree planting, erosion control and wildlife measures, and more. Landowners follow certain aspects of these plans or are penalized.

In 1986, the Managed Forest Law (MFL) replaced the Forest Crop Law (FCL) and Woodland Tax Law (WTL) programs by a legislative act to simplify forest tax law administration and increase landowner benefits. Today, over 2.5 million acres of Wisconsin forestland are managed under forest tax law programs and the Department of Natural Resources has agreements with about 26,000 landowners.

Hujanen says the four key advantages of the MFL are that it reduces taxes recognizes the landowners' objectives, includes a management plan that ensures good forest stewardship, and offers the landowner the choice of opening or closing all or a part of their land to the public.

"The law is meant to maintain forestland and discourage people from breaking up parcels," Hujanen says. "Following the Managed Forest Law gets people thinking about sustainability and may lead to certification for some as they take it one step further."

For details of the Wisconsin DNR forestry program, visit Division of Forestry on the web.