Booher private land management bills approved by Senate

LANSING – The Michigan Senate on Thursday approved Sen. Darwin Booher’s legislation to help educate property owners on the benefits of managing private land for timber harvest, habitat development and recreation.

“The primary goal of this package is to encourage management of private lands by helping landowners in Michigan learn about the advantages of managing their land,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Michigan has 11 million acres of private land, but only 20 percent of it is being actively managed. That means we as a state are not achieving our full potential – especially concerning our forestlands.”

Senate Bill 1057 would allow conservation districts to advise landowners about the value of managing their land for timber harvest, habitat, conservation and recreation, while SB 1059 would implement changes to the Qualified Forest Program to encourage landowners to enroll in the program and actively manage their forestland.

Other highlights in the six-bill Senate package include:

• Transferring oversight of the Qualified Forest program, from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development;
• Requiring the Environmental Assurance Advisory Council to develop an assessment tool designed to help landowners assess the value of managing their lands; and
• Making lands eligible for the 18-mill agricultural exemption if more than half of the acreage is devoted for a combination of agricultural use and use as qualified forest land.

“If enacted into law, these proactive reforms are about developing a partnership between landowners and conservation districts to achieve a common goal – the effective, beneficial and healthy management of our private forestlands,” Booher said. “The relationship will prove mutually beneficial as we work to help residents learn about advantages of owning property.”

SBs 1057-1062 now head to the House of Representatives for consideration.

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Mortgage settlement bills signed by governor

LANSING— Sen. Darwin Booher, R-Evart, and Attorney General Bill Schuette recently joined Gov. Rick Snyder at the Capitol as he signed legislation to help residents struggling with foreclosure.

Public Act 295 of 2012 creates the Homeowner Protection Fund, which will receive $97.2 million from five major banks as part of a settlement with the Michigan attorney general’s office. PA 296 appropriates the money to help prevent foreclosures, alleviate the effects of the crisis and prosecute foreclosure-related crimes.

“Mortgage fraud impacts entire communities and all taxpayers,” said Booher, chair of the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee. “This fund is designed to help preserve the American dream of homeownership by assisting those families affected by fraud or unfair practices. It also will help prevent more families from losing their homes and builds on the mortgage fraud crackdown legislation we enacted last year.”

Residents may visit www.michigan.gov/mortgagesettlement for more information on the fund.

Pictured with the governor from left to right: Rep. Chuck Moss, R-Birmingham; Schuette; Booher; Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw; and Sen. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba.

A print-quality photograph of Booher with Gov. Snyder is available by clicking on the image or by visiting the senator’s photowire at: www.misenategop.com/senators/photowire.asp?District=35.

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Booher sponsors PIGS legislation to combat feral swine problem

LANSING—Sen. Darwin Booher introduced legislation on Tuesday to help combat Michigan’s feral swine problem. The Pork Industry Governance Standards (PIGS) would establish mandatory tagging, testing and fencing requirements, as well as adopt penalties for violations.

“Recent reports from state agencies and agricultural interest groups have focused on the potential for feral swine to spread disease and damage the landscape,” said Booher, R-Evart. “Any pig that escapes from its owner is feral and can threaten the agricultural industry as well as our natural resources. Constituents of mine have suggested the proper way to address this problem is to require that all pigs in Michigan be tagged, so when a pig escapes, it can be tracked back to the owner. That is exactly what this package seeks to accomplish to bring some common sense solutions to the alleged feral pig problem.”

Booher’s measure, Senate Bill 1247, would require every pig in Michigan to be tagged. A companion bill sponsored by Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, would make allowing a pig to escape a misdemeanor punishable by 90 days in jail or a $500 fine. SB 1249 would also create a fine of $500 for each escaped hog.

“Pigs that escape from their owners, and become feral, can become dangerous as they run wild,” Booher said. “State officials believe that feral hogs are now in 75 of Michigan’s 83 counties. If that is true, we need to move swiftly to address this growing issue.”

SB 1248 would require five-foot-tall high-tensile fences for all pigs raised outside of an enclosed building; and SB 1250 would require that if a feral hog tests positive for PRV or brucellosis, the herd where it escaped from would need to be tested.

“When facing an issue like feral hogs, there are reasonable approaches designed to address and correct the problem and irrational ones that do nothing more than try to take away private property,” Booher said. “Developing regulations to ensure all hogs stay on the farm where they are supposed to be is a reasonable approach to help protect our agricultural industry and natural resources.”

Michigan has more than 2,900 hog farms located in nearly every county across the state. 

In 2009, a Muskegon-area resident shot a Hampshire feral hog that measured more than six feet long and weighed 514 pounds after it chased his wife and dog into the house. He then shot three other smaller Hampshire feral hogs. In Saginaw County, a several-hundred-pound Yorkshire feral hog charged at a sheriff deputy after rooting in a homeowner’s yard in 2011. 

“Regulations must include tagging, fencing standards, disease testing and penalties to hold the owner responsible for an escaped pig,” Booher said. “Most farms in Michigan have appropriate fencing and have never had an animal escape, but like everything else, there are those that don’t and we need to get them cleaned up.”

Booher noted that under state law, any hunter with a valid Michigan hunting license can shoot feral swine on sight while hunting. Private property owners may shoot any feral swine on their property and do not need to be in possession of a hunting license.

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