Forests cover nearly half of Wisconsin and many people are surprised to learn that individuals and families hold the largest portion of these forests. According to the 2011 Forest Inventory Analysis and National Woodland Owners Survey, more than 380,000 private forest landowners hold an estimated 11.8 million acres of forestland in Wisconsin.
Privately owned forests enrich all of our lives in Wisconsin:
- Environmentally, they provide clean water, clean air, erosion control, wildlife habitat, sanctuaries for hundreds of species of rare plants and animals and natural communities and a range of other ecosystem services.
- Socially, they provide abundant recreational opportunities as well as scenic beauty, and solitude.
- Economically, they provide the raw materials for homes, offices, furniture, paper, medicines, paints, plastics and many products you might not realize come from trees. In Wisconsin, more than 1,190 wood using companies produce nearly $20 billion of forest products every year. Nearly two-thirds of their raw material needs are supplied from private land.
Therefore, assuring that privately owned forests are managed to sustain these multiple benefits is in the public's interest.
Private Forestry Assistance Program
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – Division of Forestry's private forestry assistance program has four basic elements:
- Technical assistance provided directly to landowners by DNR foresters
- Partnerships with private enterprises and other organizations
- Incentive programs
- Educational activities
Individual landowners are responsible for decisions on their land. There are zoning ordinances, laws that protect endangered species and other resource regulations, but the state depends primarily on voluntary application of good management practices. Incentive programs and free management advice are the main tools used to guide forest owners. Guidance is based on integrated resource management that takes into account the condition of the forest ecosystem, its capabilities and the objectives of the landowners.
Managed Forest Law Program
Cost sharing programs (such as the Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program) that assist landowners with eligible expenses for approved management practices encourage sustainable forest management on private lands. The Managed Forest Law (MFL) is another important forest incentive program in Wisconsin. DNR staff has had difficulty keeping up with the growing program maintenance needs as it has become increasingly complex and enrollment continues to grow each year. The Council on Forestry studied the MFL program in 2013 and developed these recommendations to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the program.
For More Information
If you own forest land in Wisconsin, here are some sites to serve as a starting point for learning more about caring for your woodlands: