Diamond in the Rough

Wisconsin forest

As a forester, I have the luxury of evaluating and scouring through some of the most unique camps and properties throughout the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and although each parcel usually has some unique feature or characteristic that distinguishes it from others, commonality can be found in the pride that each landowner holds for their little piece of paradise. It is an exciting privilege to own your own property, but trying to sift through all of the different techniques, options, and strategies of potential land management can be overwhelming. Ignorance may be bliss in some situations, but understanding your land management options can save you money immediately, and can create a strong return on investment for generations to come. 

A cabin tucked in a Wisconsin forest

Proper and sustainable timber management holds the most significance in long term return on investment. Step number one in this process is to develop a management plan for your property. The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) provides funding to private forest landowners that usually covers the entire cost to get a management plan written for your property. The management plan will help you make informed decisions and provide a variety of options that best suit the landowner’s short term and long term objectives. Managing timber the right way can produce a more valuable stand in the future, all while creating periodic income in the short term.

Outside of timber, additional revenue producing options are available through the NRCS if one is willing to put in a little sweat equity. Depending on the NRCS district, and what resource concerns may be in the area, a plethora of funding opportunities are out there to help improve wildlife habitat, improve roads/trails, prevent sedimentation into wetlands or water ways, increase plant and tree diversity, and to improve forested stands that are not viable for commercial harvest.  You will be surprised as to the variety of funding options. Contact your local District Conservationist to discuss options that best fit your property and interests.

Timber Sale Prospectus Map

Furthermore, there are additional ways of producing income to help pay for your property. Many folks lease their land for hunting, while others rent out camping spaces through a website such as hipcamp.com (similar to Airbnb but for camping). Other creative revenue streams have come in the form of tiny homes or camps that are rented out. Also, carbon credits are becoming more available for smaller landowners to participate in. Yes, you can even harvest your property while being a part of the program, but there are strict guidelines as to the quantity of volume that is allowed for removal. The options are out there, you just have to get creative and determine what is the best fit for you. 

Tax incentive programs have to be mentioned, as the cost saving on an annual basis are significant. Michigan has two main programs, the Commercial Forest Act (CFA), and the Qualified Forest Program (QFP). These are similar to Wisconsin’s Managed Forest Law (MFL) program, all of which incentivize and encourage sustainable forestry on private woodland parcels. In exchange for following sound forest management, the landowner pays reduced property taxes. If you are not a part of any of these programs, I highly suggest you consult with a forester to see what program best fits your needs. 

Preparing a landowner’s property for harvest

If you are thinking about buying your first woodland parcel, investing in another property, or just maintaining the property you have, these options, when applied strategically, can help offset a significant cost of the property. Many woodland lots can be looked at as a diamond in the rough, they have exceptional qualities or potential, but lack refinement or polish. It’s the landowner, or future investors job (with the help of a forester) to sift through all of these management and funding opportunities to help polish a piece of property to the point where it pays for itself, whether that be financially, esthetically, or both.

> Have a forestry related question you’d like to ask one of our foresters? Contact us by phone 1-800-352-1438 or email our team anytime.

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