Forest ownership patterns in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA

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Department of Social Sciences


In heavily forested rural areas, tax-incentivization programs are commonly employed to encourage timber production and harvesting activities. Because of growing interest in developing woody-biomass-based biofuels in the Western Upper Peninsula of Michigan, USA, we analyzed property records to determine who the regional actors are along with what role tax-incentivization programs may play. We found that a minority of entities collectively control 77 percent of the land in the region; however, family forest owners collectively own 23 percent of the land. Although taxincentive programs are commonly used by commercial forests, the requirements of the primary program in Michigan program appear to preclude most family forests in the region. Accordingly, this study suggests that a greater understanding of reluctance of family forests to enroll in secondary programs is needed, or a lowering of forestland requirements to permit more family forests to enroll. Study Implications: In heavily forested rural areas, the development of local forest resources has been suggested as a means of developing the local economy. One means of using the forest resources is through the development of woody-biomass-based biofuel or bioenergy programs. As these programs are dependent upon harvesting to supply the relevant feedstocks, tax-incentivization programs, such as Michigan's Commercial Forest Land (CFL), may be used to encourage commercial timber production and overcome resistance to harvesting by nonindustrial private forest (NIPF) owners. These findings suggest such programs are likely to be well to fully subscribed by commercial forests. However, the implementation of these programs (ex., minimum of 40 ac. of forestland) may preclude a significant number of family forests from being able to enroll, which may be a contributing factor to low subscription rates. As a result, policymakers wishing to encourage enrollment by family forests in tax-incentivization programs should consider the practical realities of regional family ownership (i.e., average forestland acreage) in developing the programs.

Publisher's Statement

© The Author(s) 2020. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of American Foresters. All rights reserved. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1093/jofore/fvaa027

Publication Title

Journal of Forestry