For many owners of privately-held forest land, the answer is as varied as the person answering the question. For some, the answer is to keep the forest for aesthetic reasons; for others, it's for wildlife, recreation, or hunting. For some, the value of the timber may be an investment for future expenses, such as college costs for children. Regardless of your answer, the key is active management of your forest land.
The purpose of this web site is to assist you in the process of better management of your forest land, regardless of your desired outcome. This site will also show you how to save on property taxes on your forest land, as a result of active forest management.
One property tax savings program available to private forest landowners is the Qualified Forest Program (QFP). The purpose of the QFP is to grow the forest products industry in Michigan by providing a tax incentive for private forest landowners in Michigan to better manage their forested lands. For more information on the QFP, you can continue reading below, visit our website at Michigan.gov/QFP, send us an email at MDARD-QFP@Michigan.gov, or contact the QFP staff at 517-284-5630.
I think I'm interested in enrolling my property in the QFP. Who should I contact locally to discuss the condition of my privately owned forest property?
Forestry-related services are provided, free of charge, by many of the County Conservation District Offices in the State. Visit Michigan.gov/MIFAP for a listing of the conservation districts that provide forestry assistance to private forest land owners under the Forestry Assistance Program, or contact the QFP staff at 517-284-5630 for assistance.
What other benefits might be achieved by retaining a professional forester to develop a forest management plan for my property?
Managing Your Forest to Support Wildlife
Sustainable forest management can help create an environment where wildlife can thrive. For example, landowners may create grouse habitat by leaving tree tops from a harvest on the forest floor, as well as creating openings in the forest for food plots and bedding areas that will increase the wildlife population.
Thinning of the Forest to Promote Forest Health
Thinning strategies are important to promote forest growth and to create areas of higher-quality timber. This involves the removal of selected trees in areas where trees are overcrowded, which allows remaining trees to grow in a healthier fashion, and provides openings in the understory for wildlife cover and food, as well as the artificial regeneration of tree species.
Improvement of Forest Health by Removing Invasive Plant Species
By identifying and removing invasive species, landowners can protect the health of their forests and proactively prevent damage to the ecosystem. Invasive species such as Autumn Olive and Japanese Barberry can choke off the understory vegetation in a forest, severely limiting the growth of native tree species.
Removal of Trees Affected by Disease and/or Invasive Pests
As trees are affected by disease and pests, they are removed to prevent further spread and encourage healthy growth of remaining tree species. Some common disease and pests found in Michigan include Emerald Ash Borer, Gypsy Moth, Oak Skeletonizer, and Oak Wilt.
Removal of Downed Timber to Reduce Forest Fire Hazard
Management of the forest floor can improve the overall health of your forest. Downed timber and brush can be consolidated into piles on the property, creating wildlife habitat. Brush can also be removed to open the understory of the forest, which reduces potential fire hazard.
Harvest of Trees that have Reached Their Useful Life
Tree species that have reached the extent of their life cycles can be harvested and utilized in the logging and timber industries. Sustainable timber harvests provide periodic income to the landowner, and help to stimulate and sustain the forestry economy in Michigan.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
Q: Are there tax benefits associated with managing my forest land?
A: Tax benefits are available for sustainably managing your forest under the Qualified Forest Program (QFP), through an exemption from local school operating millage (typically 18 mills). More information about the QFP can be found at Michigan.gov/QFP.
Q: How are local schools affected by the reduction in school operating expenses provided through enrollment in the QFP?
A: Enrollment in the QFP does not negatively impact Michigan schools. The schools are made whole through reimbursement from the state's School Aid Fund on a per-pupil basis. The reimbursement is similar to the reimbursement made as a result of your Principal Residence Exemption (PRE) on your primary residence.
Q: Other than for the purposes of a tax reduction, why should I manage my forest land?
A: For answers to this question and similar questions, please refer to the section above titled "What other benefits might be achieved by retaining a professional forester to develop a forest management plan for my property?".
Q: Is there a parcel size requirement for enrollment in the QFP?
A: To be considered for enrollment in the QFP, parcels must be at least 20 acres in size. The maximum amount of acreage that can be enrolled in the QFP is 640 acres per landowner, per township. Please visit Michigan.gov/QFP for additional information.
Q: What if I have a structure or structures of some sort on the property? Can I still enroll in the QFP?
A: Structures are allowed on the property, but are not eligible to receive the exemption from school operating millage. Assessors will handle the structures one of two ways: either through the creation of a "ghost parcel", which splits the building(s) and the surrounding land into a separate tax parcel ID number for tax purposes, or by granting an exemption from school operating millage on a percentage basis, which involves calculating the value of the structure and the land surrounding it, and granting an exemption based upon the value of the land relative to that of the structure. For example, a parcel with a barn might have a taxable value of $100,000. If the barn is worth $30,000, the assessor might grant a 70% exemption from school operating millage, as the land value is 70% of the total value of the parcel. For further clarification, please contact your local assessor or QFP staff.
Q: My primary residence is on my parcel of forest land. Can I enroll in the QFP?
A: Enrollment in the QFP provides a tax reduction similar to that of a Principal Residence Exemption (PRE). If your forest land parcel includes your primary residence, you are likely already receiving an exemption from school operating millage, and would not receive an additional tax benefit through enrollment in the QFP. If you are unsure of the tax benefits that you are currently receiving, please contact your local treasurer or assessor for assistance.
For more information on the Qualified Forest Program (QFP):