Do You Need a Permit to Clear Land in Michigan?

land clearing services in michigan

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If you own property in Michigan and have a land use project in mind, you may have one question: Do you need a permit to clear land in Michigan? 

Like so many questions around land use, the answer rests on several factors. Depending on the location of your land, the amount you need to have cleared, the type of soil and other variables, you may need to follow specific rules and regulations. 

Some variables to consider before the start of any land clearing project are the proximity of your land to water, local forestry guidelines, protection of endangered species and other factors. Of course, the most important thing you can do if you’re wondering ‘do you need a permit to clear land in Michigan, is your research. 

Here, we’ll get you started with a few important things to consider. 

First — What is Land Clearing?

Land clearing is part of any thorough reset when you want to re-purpose land for landscaping, construction or agricultural use. Naturally, over time, even vacant land can become overgrown with bushes, trees, wild grass and other plants.

Technically, land clearing is described as the removal of existing material from a property, including plants and bushes, trees, stumps, roots and other vegetation. 

While land clearing is an efficient way to provide a fresh start for builders, farmers and homeowners, it needs to be done with care and within state guidelines, to protect the local ecosystem. In Michigan, the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) oversees the rules surrounding land clearing, to ensure the sustainability of our land and water systems.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the regulated factors that help answer the question — do you need a permit to clear land in Michigan?

Planning is a Must

Maintaining healthy land is an ongoing, ever-changing challenge in Michigan. Local and state governments have a vested interest in protecting the integrity of private and public property, to safeguard state-wide forests and wetlands while avoiding soil erosion. 

If you need land cleared for any reason, it is important to take planning into account. In Michigan, all land clearing needs to be done in a way that prevents off-site erosion or sediment discharge to lakes, streams or wetlands.

As you prepare for a land clearing job, be aware that you may need best management practices (BMPs) for things like:

  • Access Roads — used to prevent migration of sediment from construction-related traffic
  • Silt Fence — a fence installed at the edge of the soil disturbance, designed to prevent soil and sediment from eroding into downslope waters.
  • Riparian Buffer — a strip or zone of permanent vegetation that runs alongside streams or other bodies of water, including grasses, shrubs, trees and other vegetation, which should be left undisturbed.
  • Critical Area Stabilization — where land is highly susceptible to erosion, either by soil type, slope or other factors, specific areas will need to be protected from human activity and fortified with plant growth.

Keep in mind, the list of BMPs required is fluid, depending on new hazards that arise. Each BMP is subject to revision, as well. If you are questioning — do you need a permit to clear land in Michigan? — it is important to find the latest documentation to make sure you adhere to current rules and regulations. 

Planning for your land clearing project is critical to its success. With enough time to obtain proper permit to clear land, you’ll have peace of mind and a clear path forward. 

Land Location and Size

Much of the regulation around land clearing in Michigan is designed to prevent erosion and maintain healthy waterways. Because there are a wide variety of soil types throughout the state, there are regulations to protect areas more susceptible to erosion. Specifically, there are regulations in place to preserve sites with fine or dense soils, or steep slopes.

If your proposed land clearing is within 500 feet of a lake or stream or is greater than  one acre in size, you may require a permit from your local county.  A municipal Soil Erosion and Sedimentation Control (SESC) permit, or other county permits, may be required. 

Wetland Protection

In Michigan, wetlands are protected through regulations. While some land clearing, often considered property maintenance, is allowed without a permit, most land clearing requires approval. It is best to check your plans with the local EGLE District Office to determine if you need a permit. 

Control of Pollutants

Naturally, the soil is disturbed when land is cleared for alternate use. In some cases, depending on the original use of the land, it can put the soil at risk of excess erosion and cause displaced pollutants to run into water sources. 

Displaced pollutants can run downstream and cause significant damage to wildlife. As a result of this risk, those who engage in land clearing are required to use BMPs to minimize damage.

Tree Protection 

Land clearing jobs in Michigan also need to take the preservation of trees into account. While some can easily be removed, others are considered part of a Riparian Buffer, the vegetation that protects the stability of banks along rivers, streams and lakes. 

Some shallow-rooted species of trees should be left in place, as well, as they help to protect one another from wind damage.

The Short Answer

While this may seem like a long answer to a short question — do you need a permit to clear land in Michigan? — there are many complexities to consider. While your land may be your own, it is part of a larger ecosystem and parts of it may need to be protected. 

The most important takeaways are two-fold: i) do your research so you properly understand which elements of your property may need to be protected and ii) don’t go it alone. As your first step, find a reputable land clearing service in Michigan to help with the job. 

How the Right Team Can Help

Let’s face it, property-related jobs can be stressful. Not only do you want the result to meet your expectations, but you also want the process to go smoothly. While you may expect to need time to secure building permits, it is important to expect that you may need land clearing permits, as well.   

The easiest way to make sure you are following regulations and securing land clearing permits is to find the right team of professionals. When you look for a land clearing service in Michigan, be sure to seek out an experienced team with a strong reputation. 

The right team will communicate clearly, they will give you a good understanding of timelines and expectations, conduct a thorough assessment of your property and help obtain necessary permits and permissions. 

At Stump Demolition, we stand by our commitment to you. We serve southeast Michigan with a high work ethic, clear communication and the highest quality work standards. We ensure our jobs are done on schedule and budget. We have a deep knowledge of Michigan’s governmental regulations and years of experience helping our clients to obtain the permits they need.

To get started, simply contact us. We will arrange a time to assess your project, including the nature of your soil, your risk of erosion and which permits you are likely to need. Let us help with your fresh start.


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