Private Firms to Administer State Forests in Pilot Program

TRAVERSE CITY — In May, state legislators passed a bill that will create four pilot programs in which state forests will be maintained by private contractors. In each of the four pilot areas — two each in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas — a private forestry firm will manage the forests, marking and harvesting the timber, as well as reforesting harvested areas.

The state will retain oversight responsibilities. The bill also requires the state to obtain certification from an outside party that the state has abided by correct forestry rules and principles. Officials at the state Department of Natural Resources, which is responsible for running the program, need not choose private vendors until December 2006.