If you own a woodlot, big or small, it is quite important to have a management plan to help guide you. A plan will help you understand what you have and help prioritize work in the woodlot. It can be simple or more complex and detailed. I am personally all for simple but with enough detail to really help show you what you have and help guide you in what you could or should, do with it.
One of the biggest misconceptions to get over is, the forest dictates what should be done. The existing forest is a consideration alright but the biggest influence on what should take place in a woodlot is, “You” the owner/manager! As the owner of a tract of forest, it is your desires or interests that is the strongest influence on what should be done. You interests could range from complete preservation (do noting) to intensive management for the highest possible financial returns with no consideration for other values. The reality is that the vast majority of owners fall somewhere in between these two extremes.
The first step in developing a plan is to gather information about the woodlot. Hiring a trained forestry consultant can be vey helpful. But remember to put forward your long term objectives for the woodlot.
The first step in preparing a plan is to know what you have. Take an inventor of what types of trees or other vegetation is growing on your land. Are the trees softwoods or hardwoods, are the old, young or somewhere in between? What condition are they in? Is the land wet or dry? Is it flat or sloping. Are there any special features that should be noted? Is there access to the property? These are some of the main things that should be assessed and put on a map. It helps to know where the different features are. Typically, when taking an inventory, it helps to divided a woodlot into stand types. A stand is simply an area of similar vegetation that is notably different from the ones around it. Knowing what you have will help you decide what you want, or should do. You may wish to hire a consultant or speak to your local forestry office for advice. But remember this, It is your woodlot and the management prescriptions should fit with your interests and not be dictated by others.
Before someone, other than yourself, can prepare a plan they must know what your interests are. It can be surprisingly difficult to decide which elements are of the highest priority to you. In a short blog, it is not possible to go into detail but I have created a list of things to take into consideration. You must choose your priorities and convey this to whoever is developing your plan. The following is a list of possible things you may wish to manage for and you must place them in order of importance to help guide your management plan:
- ECONOMICS (MAKING MONEY)
- growing more valuable trees (quality vs quantity)
- maximize income (high intensity management)
- generating income from non-timber forest product
- WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT
- song birds
- small mammals
- rare species
- forest plants
- birds of prey (hawks and owls)
- hunting (rabbits, grouse deer, etc)
- BEING CLOSE TO NATURE
- SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
- PROTECTING A SPECIAL PIECE OF LAND
- SPRITUAL CONNECTION
- MAINTAINING OR ENHANCING BIODIVERSITY
- OTHER (BE SPECIFIC)
There could be many other things that are important and if the things that are important to you are not on this list you should add them. I recommend putting your top six priorities in order of importance. If it is less than six, that’s is OK. You must have a good understanding of your own basic objectives and be able to convey these as “long term guiding principals”. Give the list to whoever is writing your plan. This list should make up a part of the first page of your plan. It is there for you and others to see and to help keep you on tack. These priorities can, and probably will, change over the years. But the changes are often gradual and usually are small incremental shifts.
Perhaps you have an area with wild edible mushrooms that you want to preserve or enhance for annual picking. Your plan should reflect your desires and interests.
These guiding principals are for the long term development of the property. A management plan is usually for a short period, often 5 to 10 years. It will help you decide which work is the most important. It is very difficult to do everything in a short period, so creating priorities will help you target the most important work first. All of the short term work will help achieve the greater goal of developing the property for the priorities you have listed.
This is a somewhat simplified view of developing a woodlot management plan. However it is an important part. Woodlot owners, with limited knowledge of the forest, should ask a professional to prepare them a management plan. But, unless “YOUR” long-term objectives and interests are at the forefront, then you will have a plan which is written from someone else’s perspective on what “They” believe are the most important things. Too many plans get written and then never acted upon, mostly because the woodlot owner is not satisfied that the work prescribe meets with his or her desires for the property. I do believe in getting advice from others, as their knowledge and perspective may lead you to things that you had not thought of.
After all the information has been gathered and there has been time to develop a suitable plan, sit down and go over it carefully. It is only a guide and can be changed, if you need to. But, use it to help keep you on course to get the most satisfaction out of your woodlot.
Planning is so important. I didn’t go into the principals that drive our decision making at Watts Tree Farm in this blog. However, if there is interest from readers, I would be happy to write more about this topic. In short, we use an “integrated use” approach. We look for a balance among economics, wildlife management, recreation and all round good stewardship. In future blogs, I will touch on some of the broader areas and break them into smaller parts or attempt to make the decision making process more understandable.
As always, I hope readers enjoy this blog and find some bits of useful information. I enjoy receiving comments from readers and if you are new to this blog please consider following by hitting the “follow” button. I assure you that I will not be sending you anything except an automatic notice when a new blog is posted.
Until next time, keep safe and well.
***Click on any photograph to get a larger image***