September 2, 2013 by Bobbi Rongstad
Managed Forest Law (MFL) offers tax breaks per acre of land in return for owners’ agreeing to work with professional foresters on long-term sustainable management of their forests. Municipalities are awarded a percentage of the sale when timber is harvested. Owners can choose from having their land open to the public for recreation or closed to public access.
MFL currently limits the amount of MFL acres that one landowner can close to public uses to 160 acres per municipality. The tax break is more generous when land is open to the public. This encourages more land to be available for public recreation, hunting, fishing, etc. Land owners commit to long-term participation (usually 25 or 50 years) and are required to pay back the tax savings they realized if they opt out before the term expires. Here is a DNR web-based tool you can use to identify ‘open’ MFL parcels. http://dnr.wi.gov/…/ForestLandowners/openToPublicApp.html.
RGGS Land & Minerals, LaPointe Iron Company, and Chester Co. Limited, own vast parcels of land in the Penokee Hills and participate in the ‘Open’ Managed Forest Law program. Gogebic Taconite (GTac), a company that has plans for a mountain top removal project in the Penokee Hills on land leased from these companies, has an agreement with the property owners regarding the minerals of these parcels. If GTac exercises their option and moves forward with a mine, the land would need to be removed from the MFL program and back taxes repaid to municipalities, since the acreage would no longer be a forest. The Town of Anderson was provided estimates that they would receive around $400,000 once GTac removed the potential mining acreage from the Managed Forest program.
Senators Tiffany and Grothman have proposed an exemption (SB278) to this long-standing program that would allow a mining company to remove acreage from the open status and into closed status for just $1 per acre, for each year they keep it closed, rather than reimbursing municipalities as is required by other MFL landowners. The actual difference between open and closed land per their pre-2005 agreement is $1.87 per acre. The Senators’ proposal appears to disregard the current 160 acre limit for closed managed forest land, as well. It is unclear how this proposed change would affect the payback to municipalities.
The bill, introduced just before close of business Friday afternoon before the long Labor Day weekend, is set on a fast track with a public hearing scheduled in Madison on Wednesday, September 4th at 11 a.m. and Executive Session of the committee on September 5th at 9 a.m.
If you have concerns or questions about this proposed change to existing Managed Forest Law, contact committee members:
Sen.Tiffany@legis.wi.gov (608) 266-2509
Sen.Darling@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-5830
Sen.Grothman@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-7513
Sen.Jauch@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-3510
Sen.Lehman@legis.wisconsin.gov (608) 266-1832
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