Reviewing your Forest Management Plan, Gary Ellingson, Northwest Management, Inc Montana Office Manager

By July 11, 2018Article

Those of you who are reading this article are probably involved in some aspect of forest land management; it may be a daily activity or something you are only involved with on a periodic basis. You may manage land for your family, tribe, public tax payer, shareholder, corporation, NGO, or some other entity. Hopefully, at some point there was a forest management plan prepared for the forest land you manage.

So, when was the last time you read the plan? How long ago was it prepared? What changes have happened to the land or the ownership objectives since the plan was prepared? Have your management experiences taught you anything on the projects you did implement that should be applied to future projects? Have log market conditions changed? Is your forest inventory up to date? Have you experienced timber harvest, fire, insect infestation or other agents of change to the forest? Has the actual ownership of the land changed?

These questions are intended to highlight the fact that as forests, markets, ownership objectives, skills, knowledge, and technology change, our forest management plans need to keep pace in order to become remain relevant. If the forest management plan is outdated on what basis are forest management decisions being made?

Understanding that change is continually going to influence our management should motivate us to periodically review our plans and ensure that they are still applicable and relevant. The objective of this article is to encourage you to find your forest management plan, read it carefully, and evaluate if it is still pertinent. It is likely that at least some sections would benefit from an update.

Here are a number of key questions you might consider as you review your forest management plan.

• Are the goals and objectives all still relevant?

• Is everyone involved with management of the property familiar with the plan?

• Who is responsible for ensuring the plan is implemented?

• Is the plan being implemented as intended? If not, why and what needs to be addressed?

• Have financial conditions that impacted the plan changed significantly (log markets, financial assistance programs, owner finances, land values)?

• Is forest inventory information current and comprehensive enough?

• Have completed project records been updated and recorded?

• Is there better information available to inform the plan (aerial photography, soils, forest inventory, completed project experience, cost and income estimates, new markets)

• Are there recommendations in the plan that have been implemented and not been as successful as hoped?

• Has the ownership changed?

• Are there newly emerged management concerns not currently addressed in the plan (weeds, fires, legal issues, easements, insects and disease infestations, etc.)
Keeping your forest management plan updated is a key aspect of responsibly managing forest land. The plan communicates to all involved parties what is important and what needs to be done to remain successful in regards to achieving ownership objectives. If an update of your plan requires technical assistance NMI professional forestry staff work with you to get back on track. In some cases maybe there are only minor updates that need to be made. Reviewing your plan on at least an annual basis will remind you about what is important to be thinking about in the coming year and help to maintain focus. It might also be inspiring to reflect on all you have accomplished since the plan was initially developed!