Develop a Sustainable Forest Management Plan

Have plants and wildlife coexist and benefit equally from your forest by developing a sustainable forest management plan.

| April 16, 2012

Let the forest on your property thrive with its natural wonder and beauty. If you’ve ever thought about how to maintain your forest without harming the balance between wildlife and woodland, More Than a Woodlot: Getting the Most from Your Family Forest can show you the way to achieving that important balance. Author Stephen Long, co-founder of Northern Woodlands magazine, shares ways to increase biodiversity in your woods, how to evaluate — and improve — habitat for songbirds and other wildlife, and what to look for in a forester and a logger. Start off by developing a sustainable forest management plan with a professional forester. It’s as easy as taking a walk through your forest and taking note of what is around you. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 3, “A Walk in Your Woods.” 

I’ve loved my woods since the day I first walked in them, but my appreciation of them has increased exponentially since I first had a professional forester walk in my woods with me. I was a true neophyte. In my case, my guide was the county forester, and he showed me inter­esting things I would have missed, asked me thought-provoking questions, and showed me how to read certain indica­tors of the forest’s history. That walk in the woods jump-started my passion for what could be done in them and with them. I have since then hired a consulting forester, who has written a sustainable forest management plan for our woods, overseen timber sales, and been an important partner in managing these woods I love.

It’s not just the neophyte who will benefit from a walk in the woods with a professional forester. Even if you can identify most of your trees and animal tracks and birds, a professional forester offers another set of eyes and an entirely different set of experiences that can help you understand what promise your woods might hold. And if you’re serious about doing a good job managing your family forest, you’ll benefit from the services of a private con­sulting forester (for more on the work foresters do, read “Forester and Logger: Two Important (and Different) Roles” later in this article.)

It’s quite possible to learn a lot about forestry from books and workshops and through the painful and exhilarating pro­cess of trial and error. Only you know how far you want to go with your own forestry education. I highly recommend learning as much as you possibly can, and I just as highly recommend that you engage a for­ester to be your partner in management. You might want to start out with what some people call a “woodland exam.” You would contract with a forester to spend two to four hours walking the property and producing a brief written report that summarizes the property’s current condi­tions and potential, and then makes some recommendations. This is not a formal inventory, which we’ll discuss below, but rather a quick sketch. At a reasonable cost, it can give you a sense of possible next steps in the forest stewardship process.

Having this informed look at the re­source is important because just as our desires differ, so does the capacity of a piece of land to satisfy them. It will be frustrating — not to mention harmful to your land — to try to make it produce something that doesn’t come naturally. To state the obvious, you need sugar maples to have a sugarbush and you need softwoods to have a deeryard. No matter how much effort you put into it, you will not be able to transform your thick hem­lock stand into a sugarbush, nor will your mature stand of maples ever serve to shel­ter deer from harsh winter conditions. There are countless other less obvious ways in which you could try to push your forest in a direction it can’t readily go.

The good news is that every piece of land has the potential to be endlessly re­warding. You will be faced with — maybe even blessed with — a set of conditions on your land that suggest certain possibili­ties for the land. Sometimes it takes a lot of work in the woods to transform it into something closer to what you want. And sometimes just an adjustment of expec­tations on the part of the landowner will bring it all to fruition.

Kyle Burdick
4/23/2012 1:05:23 PM

Great As a forester, I'm very glad to see this in Mother Earth News.

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