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Article #36, June 2000
By Bill Cook

     The forests of the Upper Peninsula are special in many ways.  One way has to do with who owns the resource.  Ownership has important implications on how the forest is managed and used.  Forty percent of the timberland is public-owned.

     If the U.P. were itís own state, the amount of public forest would rank among the top third in the nation.  This is also true for timberland owned by forest industry.  There are few other ďstatesĒ with such large ownerships of both public and industrial forest lands. 

     Ownerships by public agencies and large corporations mean the U.P. will have large blocks of forests long into the future, unless we experience a major shift in public policy or economic conditions.  The expanse of this kind of forest is uncommon in the eastern USA and goes a long way in maintaining ecological integrity.  Imagine the result of a public agency selling off a forest, or a large corporation putting their ownership up for grabs!

     The U.P. has a relatively small portion of the forest owned by the private, non-forest industry sector.  Nevertheless, at 42 percent, this sector still makes up the largest ownership classification in the U.P.  Itís comprised of two subgroups.  The corporations that donít have a wood-using mill own about a third of the area, companies such as Shelter Bay and Longyear.  Most of the acres are owned by about 55,000 Moms & Pops, hunt clubs, and folks like that.

     Considering the area of all public forests, Michigan ranks ninth, and the U.P. thirteenth among the 50 states.  The U.P. has five large public forests.  The DNR manages the Copper County, Escanaba, and Lake Superior State Forests.  The U.S. Forest Service manages the Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests. 

     Michigan has the second largest state forest system in the United States, exceeded only by Alaska.  Our sister Lake States of Wisconsin and Minnesota opted to put more of their public forest into county ownership.  They have the largest county ownerships in the nation.  In the U.P., we have county forests in Gogebic and Marquette Counties, both actively managed for a variety of purposes. 

     The largest corporate ownerships in the U.P are managed by Mead Papers, Champion International, and Shelter Bay Forests.  Of special note is the Western U.P. Forest Improvement District.  The District is a cooperative of private forest owners that now manages over 160,000 acres.

     Management, of course, is the guarantee for society of continued benefits from the forest resource.  All ownership groups manage forests for many purposes.  However, the relative importance of the various purposes vary.  

       Large private forest owners tend to manage more intensively with the primary goal of producing raw wood products.  Interestingly, all Michigan ownerships tend to fall behind their counterparts in Wisconsin and Minnesota in terms of timber production.  The private, non-industrial owners in Michigan are on the bottom of the list.

     The public sector emphasizes many uses, including timber production.  There is concern about public forests reducing timber harvest volumes, which is an especially important issue for the U.P.  While forest industries own considerable amounts of forest land, they remain quite dependent on wood from other ownerships, including that from public lands. 

     Forest use differs considerably with ownership.  The Upper Peninsula has an advantageous set of ownership patterns.  By maintaining dedication to science-based forestry, we can continue to increase the many benefits possible through forest management. 

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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.

Prepared by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005 J Road, Escanaba, MI  49829
906-786-1575 (voice),  906-786-9370 (fax),  e-mail:  cookwi@msu.edu

Use / reprinting of these articles is encouraged. Please notify Bill Cook.
By-line should read "Bill Cook, MSU Extension" Please use the article trailer whenever possible.

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