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Michigan Forest Assocation
Article #276 July 2018
By Bill Cook

The largest share of Michigan’s forest area is owned by individuals.  Some of these individuals belong to an association dedicated to the care of these woodlands, and their owners. 

     The Michigan Forest Association (MFA) has about 540 members.  That’s not a huge number, given that a couple of hundred thousand private woodland parcels occur in Michigan.  However, the MFA is one of the few organizations that represent the interests of Michigan woodland owners.  The MFA has been around since 1972. 
     The MFA will have its annual meeting on 14-15 September in the eastern U.P., together with the Michigan Tree Farm Program, another excellent forestry organization.  The annual meeting theme is “Forests at the Top of the Lake”.  This year, the Hiawatha Sportsman’s Club will help host the event, an association owning 35,000 acres. 
            Naturally, anyone is welcome to attend this meeting, which has an agenda with a mix of education, tours, and recreation.  The annual meeting has long-served as a venue for woodland owners to gather in order to have some fun while learning more about forests and forest management. 
     Any person interested in Michigan forests can be a member of the MFA.  Woodland ownership is not a requirement, although many MFA members are also woodland owners.  And, membership is not required for the annual meeting.  Locations for these meetings move around state to take advantage of various opportunities. 
     The MFA works with other organizations to monitor legislation and support those interests of woodland owners.  Membership comes with a quarterly magazine and irregular newsletters. 
     These days, most people own a piece of the forest for hunting, recreation, and related pursuits of happiness.  Generally, the “work” of ownership is deferred, often with gradual change not wholly acceptable to the owners.  The MFA comradery shares ideas and helps owners better understand that this “work” is actually a lot of fun and can be very rewarding.  Unlocking this Pandora’s box of curiosity can lead to an obsession, for some!
     Tending a forest, in a manner that leads to long-term improvement and goal-setting is not as easy as it might sometimes sounds.  There are a number of sciences involved that live under an umbrella of various policies and regulations.  If timber harvests are in the works, then there is another entire set of complications, markets, contracts, and other considerations.  Hiring a professional forester to help wade through these considerations is nearly always of great benefit to a woodland owner.
     In addition to management and management planning, there are a host of assistance and cost-share programs available.  Also, Michigan has two property tax programs for forest owners.  When timber sales occur, the special IRS tax codes that benefit woodland owners are often an afterthought.  Estate planning and passing-on-the-land is often quite important to many woodland owners, too. 
     Forests cover over half the State of Michigan, and families own nearly half the forest.  In addition to the many family benefits, these forests provide a wide range of products and environmental services that benefit all citizens of Michigan.  The MFA tries to help people to both better appreciate and better manage these invaluable natural resources. 
     Other states have similar organizations; such as the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association or the Minnesota Forestry Association.  There’s also a National Woodland Owner’s Association.  All of these like-minded groups support woodland owners in their quests to take better care of the valuable natural resources under their stewardship.  And like most organizations, there are informational newsletters, magazines, and websites.  So, if you like forests, consider the Michigan Forest Association. 

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TRAILER- This website was created by a consortium of forestry groups to help streamline information about forestry and coordinate forestry activities designed to benefit the family forest owner and various publics that make up our Michigan citizenry. This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State Extension Forester/Biologist. Direct comments to cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.

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