Each year on January 1, new Managed Forest Law (MFL) enrollments become active. This new year brings us more than 1,400 new MFL enrollments. Many of these are re-enrollments, but nearly one-third are for brand-new landowners to the MFL Program. The DNR is grateful to the landowners that re-enrolled, humbled by their renewed commitment to sound forestry, and extends a hearty welcome to all the newcomers.
Back in mid-November, we sent you a “welcome packet” consisting of:
- A welcome letter;
- The Managed Forest Law Order of Designation and MFL Map;
- A table of landowner responsibilities for MFL;
- A guide for professional resources to help landowners manage their MFL commitment; and
- A forest certification tip sheet for those landowners that opted into the MFL Certified Group.
It’s important to know that participation in MFL comes with some obligations on the landowner’s part, and the welcome packet is intended to set MFL landowners up for success. Now is a great time to take a look at that information. The table of landowner roles and responsibilities within the welcome packet is key.
The table of landowner roles and responsibilities is also available on our internet site, where you will find many other helpful resources. The table highlights important responsibilities, including completing mandatory forest management practices, ensuring forest productivity and regeneration, maintaining compatible land use and MFL parcel eligibility, and providing access to the public on open MFL land. While this doesn’t cover everything, you will be off to a great start if you are aware of and responsive to these core responsibilities. To put some of these responsibilities into perspective, nearly half of the new 2023 MFL enrollments have at least one mandatory practice within the first five years; 2,600 MFL transfers are processed on average per year; almost 10% of new 2023 MFL enrollments have open MFL acreage; and 120 voluntary withdrawals of 1-5 acres occurred last year alone to ensure compatible land use on MFL.
Are you feeling a little overwhelmed after reading the table of responsibilities? That’s completely understandable. Our goal in Forest Tax is to make your commitment as approachable as possible by providing resources and information to help you understand and engage with your landowner responsibilities. One of the most important resources available to landowners is professional expertise. Professional foresters, including cooperating foresters, are available to accompany and guide forest management to meet your goals and comply with MFL. The landowner’s guide to professional resources describes the various professionals available to assist you in your MFL journey. Since your land is already enrolled in MFL, the professionals mentioned under the “Complete the Mandatory Practices in Your Plan” and “Ownership and Status Changes For Your Property” will probably be the most relevant.
Forest certification is an additional, 100% voluntary opportunity for MFL landowners that do not impact compliance with MFL requirements. For those that did not opt-in to the MFL Certified Group, you can ignore this section, or if you need clarification on what that means, then you can also take a look at the brochure on what certification means for MFL landowners. For those that decided to join the 87% of MFL landowners that participate in the MFL Certified Group, this information is for you. Forest certification goes above and beyond what is required under MFL, though there is significant overlap. The MFL Certified Group Tip Sheet highlights some of the more prominent requirements of the MFL Certified Group, which are in addition to MFL. Forest certification may require some extra effort from the landowner, but it can also provide access to timber markets for certified wood, and certified MFL landowners typically take great pride in knowing that their stewardship of the forest holds up to rigorous third-party sustainability standards.
In Tax Law, we pride ourselves on maintaining expertise in a program that is hard to summarize in a few quick words and reaching out meaningfully with the right resources at key moments during 25- and 50-year MFL enrollments. We provide abundant resources on the DNR website (dnr.wi.gov, search for “MFL”). We encourage you to absorb that information at your own pace and reach out to the various professionals available to assist you as questions and needs arise. You are joining tens of thousands of landowners who have successfully navigated the MFL program for decades to benefit Wisconsin’s citizens through sound forest management’s social, economic and ecological benefits.
Once again, welcome to all new and continuing MFL landowners and thank you to all MFL landowners for your commitment to sound forestry. We are committed to ensuring you get the help you need along the way so your forest management efforts meet your objectives and collectively contribute to making Wisconsin a great place to live, work and play.