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.