Frequently Asked Questions about MFL – Open and FCL Lands for Hunting and Recreational Uses
Attorney Andrew Schmidt, a Wisconsin Woodland Owner’s Association member, and woodlot owner, has enrolled his own land in Wisconsin’s Managed Forest Law program. Attorney Schmidt has some of this land in “Open MFL” registration and some of this land in “Closed MFL” registration. At Schmidt and Schmidt, SC, Attorney Schmidt has seen a growing number of logging and forestry clients. He has assisted clients throughout Wisconsin with the following logging and land owner issues:
- Logging Contracts and Disputes,
- Boundary Intrusions and Disputes,
- Road Contracts,
- Helping With the Transfer of MFL from One Owner to Another,
- Hunting, Vacation and Cabin Agreements,
- Creation of LLCs,
- Estate Planning,
- Pre-Nursing Home Planning,
- Life Estate Transfers,
- Creation and Use of Revocable and Irrevocable Trusts,
- Easements and Road Access
- Fence Line Disputes.
The following list of questions is in part from a November 2012 Wisconsin DNR letter to Attorney Schmidt.
What is the difference between Managed Forest Law Land labeled as “Open” and “Closed”?
“Open land” are lands where the land owner has opted for even lower tax bills and therefore agrees to permit and allow public recreational use as described in the next question. “Closed Land” means that the land retains all private rights of the landowner; NO PUBLIC USE is permitted except as stated in this article. FCL stands for the older Forest Crop Law registration; the precursor of the MFL program.
These questions deal with the “Open” lands and not the “Closed” lands.
May I hunt on closed MFL lands?
No. MFL-Closed lands are not open for public hunting, fishing or recreation. In order to hunt you will have to personally obtain that permission. However, do not assume that you have the landowner’s permission from year to year to use the MFL-Closed property. Please be courteous and contact the landowner each year.
Activities allowed on MFL-Open and FCL lands
What activities are allowed on MFL-Open and FCL lands?
The public may use MFL-Open lands for hunting, fishing, hiking, sight-seeing, and cross-country skiing. Only hunting and fishing are allowed on FCL lands. All DNR hunting and fishing regulations and seasons apply. All other uses are prohibited unless the landowner gives permission.
Can people drive on MFL-Open and FCL lands?
No. Access to MFL-Open and FCL lands is allowed for foot travel only. Vehicular traffic, including trucks, ATVs, UTVs, snowmobiles, motorcycles or other motorized vehicles are NOT allowed unless the landowner gives permission.
Accessing MFL-Open and FCL lands
Do hunters need permission to access MFL-Open and FCL lands?
No. Hunters and other recreational users don’t need permission to access MFL-Open or FCL lands. You have given access permission by enrolling lands in the MFL-Open and FCL programs. The Wisconsin DNR recommends that hunters contact landowners prior to entry, especially if the landowner lives near the site. Speaking with the landowner may be especially helpful when access is not readily apparent.
If the MFL-Open or FCL lands are not on a public road, do I still have to provide access to the property?
Yes. Landowners with MFL-Open and FCL lands are required to allow access across their MFL-Closed or non-tax law lands if other reasonable access is not readily available. Landowners may post signs indicating the preferred access route for the public to access the open lands. Access must be reasonable. The public should contact landowners to ask where the access is if it is not readily apparent.
How will hunters and other recreational users contact me?
Addresses of the owners of MFL-Open or FCL lands are listed on the new web based mapping tool. The MFL-Open and FCL mapping tool is available on the DNR web site at http://dnr.wi.gov/. Click, “Topics”, click “Lands and Outdoor Activities”, and click “Find land open to public”.
Can I deny a hunter or other recreational user’s access to MFL-Open or FCL lands?
No. Landowners cannot deny access to MFL-Open or FCL lands, including limiting the number of hunters on the land, or restricting access to a certain hunting period or season. Landowners can post signs indicating the preferred access route for the public to access the open lands.
I only have access to my land through an easement. Do I have to allow hunters and other recreational users use of my easement?
Yes. As the owner of MFL-Open or FCL lands who has an access by easement or otherwise which provides the owner access cannot deny the public from using their easement if public access to MFL-Open or FCL land is not reasonably available through other means.
Signage of MFL-Open and FCL lands
Do I have to sign my open MFL / FCL lands?
Landowners of MFL-Open and FCL lands are not required to sign their lands as open. Any posting of signs is the landowner’s choice. If landowners do post their MFL-open/FCL lands, signs must clearly identify both the uses that are and are not allowed.
Can I post “No Trespassing” signs on my MFL-Open or FCL lands?
Lands identified on the DNR website as open to public recreation must be open to public recreation for the entire year. If you are sure that you are on the right property and see that the landowner has posted “No Trespassing” signs, please report this occurrence to the local DNR Forester or DNR Warden.
Can I post “Private Property” signs on my MFL-Open or FCL land?
No, lands that are listed as MFL-Open or FCL must be open to the public for the authorized uses. Since “Private Property” signs generally mean “No Hunting” to the public, these signs are not legal to post on MFL-Open or FCL lands.
How can I properly sign my lands?
DNR has examples of how MFL-Open and FCL lands can be posted. You should contact your DNR Forester to discuss your signing goals and obtain wording samples.
Hunting on MFL-Open and FCL lands
Can I prevent hunting during the 9-day gun-deer season if I allow hunting on all other hunting seasons?
No. Landowners must allow all types of hunting and seasons on MFL-Open and FCL lands, including hunting during the 9-day gun deer season.
Can hunters scout deer or sight their gun on MFL-Open or FCL lands?
People can hike on MFL-Open lands, so it would be difficult to prove that a person is scouting instead of hiking. Scouting is not allowed on FCL lands, since the only activities allowed on FCL lands are hunting and fishing. Sighting of guns on MFL-Open or FCL lands is prohibited. Hunters are encouraged to sight guns in at local shooting ranges.
Can hunters use a tree stand or blind on MFL-Open and FCL lands?
Yes. Tree stands and blinds can be used for hunting; however neither you nor the tree stand can cause damage to trees or the land. Cutting of shooting lanes, branches, or shrubs, or screwing in tree steps is considered to be causing damage to trees or land.
Can hunters leave their tree stand on Open-MFL or FCL lands overnight?
No. Hunters are not allowed to leave tree stands or blinds overnight unless you have given them permission.
If a hunter shoots a deer and it dies in my crop field, do I have to allow the hunter access to my crop field to retrieve their deer?
No. However, you should consider giving permission to do this so that deer that is legally shot is not wasted.
For more information
DNR Foresters can answer questions about the MFL and FCL programs. You can use the Forestry Assistance Locator to find the DNR Forester(s) who has responsibility for each county. Go to http://dnr.wi.gov and search ‘forest landowner’. Then click “Find a Forester” and you will be able to use the Forestry Assistance Locator to find the DNR Forester(s) who has responsibility for that area of the state.
DNR Wardens can answer questions about Wisconsin’s hunting seasons.