Oppose the Proposed Elimination of the Forestry Mill Tax
Wisconsin has one of the most diverse collections of forest types in the country if not the world. In our state the southern and eastern deciduous forests converge with northern conifer to form natural communities that are unique to our state and the upper Midwest. In Wisconsin, we have over 16 million acres of forests, which is 46% of the land. Meaning if you could walk every inch of our beautiful state, half of your steps would be in the shade.
However, this year Wisconsin forests are facing an enormous threat and it’s not a borer, wilt, or algid; in fact, it is something much more devastating. The Governor’s current budget proposal removes the forestry mill tax and eliminates nearly all state mandated funding for forestry management. This essential tax is leveed equally upon all landowners to support sustainable forestry throughout the state. It funds nearly every state sponsored forestry program in some way and is our main line of defense against the overuse of our excellent timber resource. In fact, the tax was put in place in 1927 after unchecked logging removed every single marketable tree from the state. Think about that… every single tree.
This is not a matter of politics. Wisconsin residents and visitors all directly rely on the forest in some way; whether it is for food, water, lumber, recreation, tourism, the list goes on. However, it is also not about just about how we use these forests, because whether it is an oak in the Driftless Area, a pine the Central Sands, or maple in the Northwoods, these trees are part of our identity. And this is the only state tax that assures our forest identity will remain intact for future generations.
Eliminating the mill tax is the modern day equivalent of allowing the lumber barons to clearcut our forests. This is especially true with recent developments of federal tariffs imposed on trade of softwood with Canada. Local forest markets will undoubtedly increase as Wisconsin softwood timber market is historically low despite being the top paper producing state. This is a good thing for many communities, but if left unchecked can also result in the conversion of our mature forests to pure production bases systems and the loss of many natural services. History has shown we cannot solely rely on the industry to police its self (…every single tree).
Fortunately we can make a difference. The Governor only proposes the budget, it us up to our Legislators to pass it. In April the Joint Finance Committee received public input on the mill tax and numerous state organizations spoke out against its elimination. These groups ranged from the Forest Stewards Guild (FSG Mill Tax Letter) to the Wisconsin Prescribed Fire Council (WPFC Mill Tax Letter).
Now is the time to for you to act. Call your local representatives today and let them know your concern about elimination of the forestry mill tax. This tax has been on the books for nearly 100 years and made Wisconsin’s private forest resource the strongest in the country. So it’s elimination as a budget item is already a contentious topic among lawmakers. If enough senators and representatives hear from concerned citizens about this topic, it would be an easy item to change on the Capitol floor in June. So please contact your representatives today and help save our forests!