Your Forest Management Plan
A forest management plan is a tool that provides a landowner with direction for the management of the property. The plan consists of several sections briefly outlined below.
The process of developing your management plan starts with you. As a landowner you must consider why you own the land. Developing your management goals and objectives, which will become the centerpiece of your plan, is the first phase of the management plan. Issues you might consider include forest health, wildlife concerns, aesthetic concerns, recreational concerns, and monetary concerns. Each concern will influence the way your management plan develops. This may be the most difficult part of developing the management plan; however, it is also probably the single most important part of your plan.
The next step in developing a management plan is to evaluate the current condition of the resource. This will define the path between where the property is today and where you would like to see the property in the future.
Property characteristics which are important include the legal descriptions, the location and access to the property, the general topography, and the water and soils. These items influence the silvicultural treatments (if any) which are available for moving the property toward the desired future stand. The topography of your land drastically limits and influences the desired management option. Of primary interest on management of the property is water and soil. Streams, wetlands and associated riparian areas provide many ecosystem services and are vital to the health of local fish and wildlife. The soil can influence the timing of management activities, the type of management activity, the vegetation the site is capable of supporting, and the potential production of the site. For instance, a particular soil type may exhibit rapid runoff, and high erosion potential.
Vegetation characteristics include a description of the timber and vegetation, habitat type, species composition, and preferred species for reforestation. This section also includes information on wildlife habitat, site productivity, growth projections, and fuel hazard management.
The timber is probably the most valuable resource found on the property. This is why a significant portion of the management plan is dedicated solely to the timber resource. A timber cruise is the first step for the evaluation of the property. A timber cruise is a systematic survey of forestlands that provides landowners with an estimate of timber volume, the location of the volume, and the condition of the resource.
The silvicultural prescription includes activities which vary from planting seedlings to thinning saplings to harvesting the timber in some areas. The treatments of areas on the property are described and alternative treatments may be discussed. In some cases, State or Federal Regulations restrict the type of activity for a parcel of land. If the forest is healthy, then doing nothing to the property and letting the trees grow might be the prescription. The silvicultural treatments facilitate your goals and objectives.
A management plan needs to be flexible enough to change as your personal goals and objectives change and should consider changes in the timber markets as well. It is important to note, your plan is a tool which should work for you, not against you.