by Lia Biondo, MUCC Policy Intern
Michigan is home to over 20 million acres of forested lands, ranking it ninth in the nation for lands covered by forests. Of
Michigan Forests Map Photo: – Michigan Forests Map
those 20 million acres, 9 million is owned privately by around 400,000 Michigan individuals and families.
In 1991, the United States Forest Service (USFS) noticed that many owners of private forested lands were not actively managing their properties. To amend this, the USFS set up the “Forest Stewardship Program” in an effort to promote sustainability and conservation in private forested lands. The USFS contributes funding to State Foresters to assist private landowners in the sustainable management of their lands. The Department of Natural Resources is the overseer of the Forest Stewardship Program in Michigan.
In exchange for a reduced property tax, landowners work with wildlife biologists and professional foresters that are certified to write forest management plans. The Forest Stewardship Program is completely voluntary, but adherence to the forest management plan written for your property is a must in order to receive the reduced property tax. Additionally, a landowner may use their Forest Stewardship Plan to pursue one of Michigan’s other private forested land programs, such as the Commercial Forest Program or Qualified Forest Program.
There is no minimum or maximum number of acres that can be enrolled in the program; however landowners must have at least 20 forested acres to be eligible for financial assistance. After deciding if your property qualifies for the Forest Stewardship program, the next step is to contact one of the 75 certified Plan Writers in Michigan. These Plan Writers work with you to ensure that your property follows the sustainable forest management guidelines put out by the USFS.
US Forestry Service LogoDon’t be afraid to interview more than one Plan Writer and to ask for references and examples of their work. After you have selected a Plan Writer, they will discuss your forest management goals and take an initial assessment of the property. This assessment acts as a comprehensive resource inventory of your property, and aids the Plan Writer in determining the best use of the land. Following the assessment, Plan Writers will begin to formulate a Forest Stewardship Plan that will outline the care and management of your forest for up to twenty years. This plan is reviewed by a DNR Service Forester, and ultimately you, for compatibility with long-term goals of the forest and adherence to USFS guidelines. If approved, the plan is implemented and landowners are occasionally interviewed by program coordinators to check up on the status of their forested lands. Plans can be readjusted and reevaluated during the ten to twenty year period following activation, and changes made as necessary.
Click HERE for an example of a Forest Stewardship Plan created for municipal forested land.
If you’re ready to find to find a certified Plan Writer in your county, click HERE.
For additional questions, contact the DNR Forest Stewardship Coordinator:
Mike Smalligan, Lansing

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