Wis. DNR proposes extension option in new rules for MFL program

Extension could help landowners dealing with excess, unprofitable wood

MADISON, Wis. – The dramatic excess supply of inferior wood to be harvested in Wisconsin forests poses a significant challenge for some landowners enrolled in the Managed Forest Law (MFL) program. The state’s MFL regulations are used by the Department of Natural Resources to govern the program. They are running into problems in the wake of markets heavily impacted by a demand slowdown in 2020 and 2021.

The DNR has released draft rules that would allow landowners (and their foresters) to seek extension of up to three years.

Under the MFL regulations landowners may have mandatory practices (often harvests) that are required within a two-year window. This might put many landowners in the position of harvesting wood that has no or negative value because of lack of viable markets and shortage of loggers and truckers. This was caused by the abundance of excess wood caused by closed paper mills during Covid and harvests of damaged wood following extreme storms in the prior two summers.

The consequences of not following through on mandatory practices could be serious: mandatory withdrawal of the land from MFL with resulting tax penalties.

The summary of the DNR draft says that “Landowners must demonstrate that they are making progress toward completing the mandatory practices in their plan to avoid being withdrawn from the program and having to pay withdrawal taxes and fees. Showing the (DNR) that they have secured the services of forestry professionals to complete the practice is a satisfactory way for landowners to demonstrate compliance and avoid being withdrawn.” Failure to complete the practice as agreed within the extension could lead to removal from the program, the DNR said.

Here is the text of the DNR’s draft, which was released in January: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/topic/ForestPlanning/stakeholderInput_forestTaxLawHandbook_601.pdf

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