Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Senate passes Markkanen plan to protect forest funds

LANSING — State Rep. Greg Markkanen’s plan to protect funds intended for sustainable forest management is headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk after the state senate passed the legislation Wednesday.

The legislation aims to limit what the money in the state’s Forest Development Fund can be used for.

“Living in the Upper Peninsula, we all know how incredibly important it is to ensure our forests are managed properly,” said Markkanen, R-Hancock. “In addition to providing jobs for many U.P. residents, the forest management industry helps protect our communities from forest fires, which can quickly grow out of control in dense forests that aren’t properly managed.”

Markkanen said the money in the fund, which is generated from revenue from timber sales on state-owned land, is intended to pay those who harvest trees on state land, plant new trees and support other sustainable practices; as well as purchasing equipment to fight forest fires and other forest-related programs.

However, in the mid-2000s the state began using the fund to help balance the budget, according to Markkanen, leading to a balance of just $500,000 in the fund by 2012.

The fund is currently generating approximately $33 million each year and about $30 million is spent on forestry operations, according to Markkanen, with the fund balance now at roughly $22 million.

Markkanen’s bill, House Bill 5333, prevents the money in the Forest Development Fund from being spent on administrative costs and uses other than harvesting, reforestation and other proper forest management practices designed to reduce the likelihood of large forest fires in the state.

—Richard Jenkins

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