May 16, 2016

On May 16, 2016 the WI DNR released some additional guidance in implementing Act 358.  WWOA encourages members to work closely with your DNR Cooperating Forester and local DNR Forester in resolving your questions about Managed Forest Law changes.  See some of the Questions & Answers below from WI DNR.

What if I am not sure if my property qualifies as a new entry/renewal because the final DNR implementation guidance will be released after the June 1 application deadline?
Since we do not have final guidance or rules completed and certain areas of Act 358 may be clarified after the guidance public review and comment process (e.g., What is a hunting blind? Are tool sheds allowed on MFL property? What are the options for existing buildings or improvements?), landowners and CPWs may want to submit a MFL application before the June 1 deadline even if they are unsure if the application meets all eligibility requirements. No applications will be accepted after the June 1 deadline. However, if DNR determines that the application is not approvable for entry/renewal as MFL property, the landowner will not be refunded the $30 application fee.

Will the June 1 application deadline be extended?
No, the June 1 deadline is written in Administrative Code, s. NR 46.16(1)(a), Wis. Adm. Code.

Has the DOR form that a landowner uses to request a withdrawal tax estimate been adjusted to reflect Act 358?
No, DNR is currently working with DOR to have the form updated, but until it is updated, it will not reflect the fact there are now two different withdrawal tax formulas – one for “large property” owners and one for non-“large property” owners. As soon as the form is able to reflect these changes, that information will be shared.

*Large property is defined in s. 77.81(2r), Wis. Stats., as “one or more separate parcels of land that are under the same ownership, that collectively are greater than 1,000 acres in size, and that are managed forest land or forest croplands or a combination thereof.”
Note: “Large property” should not be confused with large account or “large ownership” landowners that are referenced in s. NR 46.18(4), Wis. Adm. Code. All large accounts/ownerships are large properties, but not all large properties are large accounts/ownerships.

If a landowner is applying for a new entry that is contiguous to their current MFL entry can that land be an addition?
Yes, as long as the land being added meets all the requirements to be an addition. The lands added to the original entry will be taxed at the same rate as the land currently entered and all the land will expire at the same time.
Additions must be at least 3 acres in size, have no buildings or improvements, and be contiguous to the existing MFL entry. All the owners of the addition must be identical to the owners of the existing order, and after the addition the MFL parcel(s) must meet the productivity requirements. There is no maximum for the number of acres that can be added to an existing MFL entry.

If the MFL-Open lands are not on or near a public road, how does the public access the property?
The open land must be accessible to the public on foot either by public road or from other land open to public access. If public access is available solely by crossing non-MFL land or closed MFL land under the same ownership as the open land or if access is by easement or other method that gives the owner access, the access shall be marked (signed) according to s. NR 46.21(3)(c), Wis. Adm. Code.

What if an owner of MFL-Open lands cannot provide access to the public?
If a landowner cannot provide public access by foot either by public road or from other land open to public access, they can withdraw or designate their land as MFL-Closed.

Does the new 320 acre closed acreage limit apply retroactively to all existing orders?
Yes, this applies to all current and future entries. This change may prompt some land owners to request a change in the open vs. closed acreage status for their MFL land. All changes to the open/closed designation are effective the following January 1st.

Can owners of MFL land change their open vs. closed designation once an order is established?
Landowners need to file a MFL Public Access Modification Request form (form 2450-193) and follow the rules established under s. NR 46.18 (6), Wis. Adm. Code, which remains unchanged by Act 358.
Reminder: changes to the open/closed designation must be received by the Madison office prior to December 1, and the designation change will be effective on January 1.

Is there a scenario in which a landowner can designate more the 320 acres closed?
Only if that landowner owns land in more than one municipality. The new law stipulates that the 320 acre maximum is per owner, per municipality.
Note: The previous MFL provision that allowed owners to exceed the closed acreage limit if their land included government lots or fractional legal descriptions that were larger than 40 acres in size has been repealed.

Are cutting reports for MFL and FCL still required?
Yes, the Cutting Notice and Report form (Form 2450-032) is still required per s. 77.86(4), Wis. Stats., for MFL and s. 77.06(4), Wis. Stats., for FCL. Cutting notices and reports still need to be sent to Madison after the final volumes are reported and the DNR forester has approved them.