More than three million acres of Wisconsin woodlands under the Managed Forest Law (MFL) and Forest Crop Law (FCL) programs are once again impacted by changes proposed in the state budget. The State Legislature, through the Joint Finance Committee is withdrawing DNR Division of Forestry oversight of the program it is charged to administer.
The proposed budget bill eliminates WI DNR approval of timber cutting notices filed prior to harvesting woodlands within the MFL and FCL programs. The budget bill allows consulting and industrial foresters working for private woodland owners and participating in the DNR’s Cooperating Forester program, as well as foresters accredited by the Society of American Foresters, Wisconsin Consulting Foresters, and Association of Consulting Foresters, to skip the approval process.
The MFL/FCL programs clearly place the legal responsibility for compliance with the programs forest sustainability requirements on the landowner not on the forester or any other contractor submitting the cutting notice. Involuntary withdrawals from these programs may cost the woodland owner tens of thousands of dollars in withdrawal tax.
DNR approval of timber cutting notices allowed for review of the MFL/FCL cutting notices to ensure alignment with the landowners goals, program requirements, and sound forestry practices prior to the harvesting of any wood. The approval process provided reassurances to the landowners and the public that the harvest followed sustainable forestry practices.
The Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association (WWOA) wants thousands of landowners holding these 25 or 50 year contracts with the WI DNR to be aware of the proposed budget changes. WWOA understands that most woodland owners may only do a few timber harvests within their lifetime making it difficult for landowners to fully understand all the necessary details that should be reviewed prior to a timber sale.
By law DNR Foresters currently have 30 days to inspect cutting notices. DNRs review of the cutting notice approval process in the fall of 2014 showed that 87% of notices submitted were approved the first time with an average approval time of 7.4 days and 97% received final approval with an average of 8.9 days.
WWOA’s executive director, Nancy Bozek, states “Wisconsins timber industry has long accused private woodland owners of not understanding that the timber harvesting process can take up to two years to complete yet they now believe that the 7-9 day DNR cutting notice approval process is impeding their ability to harvest the timber from our woodlands.”
WWOA encourages woodland owners with MFL/FCL contracts to contact their state legislative representatives with their concerns regarding this proposed change in the budget bill. WWOA also strongly recommends that all MFL/FCL woodland owners include a written statement when filing their cutting notices requesting DNR approval of their cutting notices.