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2017-08-09 / Columnists

Forestry Notes

Bill Cook
MSU Extension Forester & Biologist

The Michigan Forest Association (MFA) has about 540 members. That’s not a huge number, given that a couple of hundred thousand private woodland parcels occur in Michigan. However, the MFA is one of the few organizations that represent the interests of Michigan woodland owners. The MFA has been around since 1972.

The MFA will have its annual meeting September 22 and 23 in East Tawas, together with the Michigan Tree Farm Program, another excellent forestry organization. The annual meeting theme is “Great Forests Make Great Lakes” and is, of course, focused on the relationship between woods and water.

Naturally, anyone is welcome to attend this meeting, which has an agenda with a mix of education, tours and recreation. The annual meeting has long served as a venue for woodland owners to gather in order to have some fun while learning more about forests and forest management.

Any person interested in Michigan forests can be a member of the MFA. Woodland ownership is not a requirement, although many MFA members are also woodland owners.

In addition, membership is not required for the annual meeting. Locations for these meetings move around state to take advantage of various opportunities.

These days, most people own a piece of the forest for hunting, recreation and related pursuits of happiness. Generally, the “work” of ownership is deferred, often with gradual change not wholly acceptable to the owners.

The MFA camaraderie shares ideas and helps owners better understand that this “work” is actually a lot of fun and can be very rewarding. Unlocking this Pandora’s box of curiosity can lead to an obsession for some!

Tending a forest in a manner that leads to longterm improvement and goal setting is not as easy as it might sometimes sound. There are a number of sciences involved that live under an umbrella of various policies and regulations.

If timber harvests are in the works, then there is another entire set of complications, markets, contracts and other considerations. Hiring a professional forester to help wade through these considerations is nearly always of great benefit to a woodland owner.

In addition to management and management planning, there are a host of assistance and costshare programs available. Also, Michigan has two property tax programs for forest owners. When timber sales occur, the special IRS tax codes that benefit woodland owners are often an afterthought. Estate planning and passing on-the-land is often quite important to many woodland owners, too.

Forests cover over half the State of Michigan, and families own nearly half the forest. In addition to the many family benefits, these forests provide a wide range of products and environmental services that benefit all citizens of Michigan. The MFA tries to help people to both better appreciate and better manage these invaluable natural resources.

Other states have similar organizations, such as the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association or Minnesota Forestry Association. There’s also a National Woodland Owner’s Association.

All of these like-minded groups support woodland owners in their quests to take better care of the valuable natural resources under their stewardship. And like most organizations, there are informational newsletters, magazines and Websites. So, if you like forests, consider the Michigan Forest Association.

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