Do I Need to Re-Think My Management Approach?
By: Luke Machtolf, ACF, CF, Northwest Management, Inc.
I recently had an interesting discussion with a landowner regarding forest management philosophies on NIPF (non-industrial private forestland) ownerships in light of the severe wildfire seasons we have been experiencing. This gentleman asked me if he should harvest more aggressively to prevent loss due to wildfire.
I have revisited this topic in my mind several times since then. I imagine many landowners in the Inland West have considered these same questions: “Should I cut now? Should I cut more? It’s just going to burn up anyway…!” My response would be: “No – there is more to consider.”
While unique and beneficial in countless ways, forests are an asset that should be managed with a similar approach to any other asset one may possess. Making decisions based primarily on fear is never good and I would caution landowners from falling into this mode of thinking. No matter how many prevention measures a forest manager takes, there is no such thing as a “fire-proof” forest. Northwest Management, Inc. would recommend that landowners be perceptive and follow a few basic guidelines: 1. Be Prepared 2. Stick to “The Plan” 3. Get Help!
Being a prepared forestland owner may include various aspects. These include having an updated Forest Management Plan, a valid cutting permit (or FPA), knowledge of market conditions, cutting lines established, timber marked for sale, stream management zones delineated, etc. Not all of these will be necessary for each landowner; however, having some provisions taken care of will save valuable time in the event of a salvage harvest. For Washington landowners, we would strongly encourage having a valid Forest Practice Application (FPA) – especially if the property has streams or wetlands. Long-Term FPAs (valid for 15 years and one 15-year renewal) are a great option, particularly for larger ownerships, which have multiple entries planned over a management cycle.
“Stick to the Plan!” Have a well-designed Forest Management Plan that is tailored to your objectives/philosophy and execute it to your best ability. Leave room for adaptation, but the goals should remain unchanged. A well-managed forest will inherently be more resilient to natural disturbances, beetles, and pathogens; however, a forest is still a forest. Such events will happen and a certain amount of our management is always going to be “reactive” to them.
Obtaining professional assistance always pays off in the long run. Utilizing consulting foresters, professional contractors, tax advisors and the like will not only save you time and money, but also protect your interests throughout the entire process. Being an involved and engaged landowner is always good, but it is nice to know you have a support system behind you – people that handle these things for a living.
Forests are complex ecosystems with many aspects out of our control. Prudent managers and landowners should take actions to limit their risks, while still working with their forests and not compromising their goals.