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Thursday, February 18, 2016

 5:02 PM 

Forestry bill going to Walker

An amended bill that would make several changes to the state’s Managed Forest Land program now awaits the guv’s signature after the Assembly concurred 62-32 on a Senate bill.

The goal of Rep. Jeffrey Mursau’s bill, backers say, is to strike a balance between supporting sustainable timber harvests and meeting the needs of the nearly 50,000 landowners in the Department of Natural Resource’s program. There are nearly 3.3 million acres in the MFL program.

Under the program, landowners who sign up and agree to forestry management practices and plans to log timber pay fees, in lieu of property taxes, that are less than what they would have been taxed. Current law requires those property owners reserve no more than 160 acres as closed, or private, while the rest is kept open for public recreational use.

Under the amended bill by Mursau, R-Crivitz, the 160-acre cap for nonindustrial land owners would be doubled to 320. The bill’s other proposed changes to the law include:

*ensuring property owners are signing a contract when entering the program and can withdraw if they do not agree with changes;

*letting land owners lease out their closed property for recreational use;

*increasing the minimum acreage requirement from 10 to 20;

*letting landowners remove as many as 5 acres from the program to build a residence;

*directing that the closed-acreage fees go to the parcel’s county and municipality or town rather than to the DNR, as current law requires. That provision is coupled with an end to the timber harvest yield taxes local governments now receive.


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