One of the most important steps in managing your forestland is the development of a detailed management plan that is tailored to your situation and your overall objectives for the property. It is hard to believe, but in North Carolina and most states in the southeast less than 10 percent of forest landowners currently have a forest management plan prepared by a professional forester. That means that over 90 percent of forest landowners are making decisions on their own or on the advice from non-professionals.
A Forest Management Plan is a comprehensive written report prepared to guide a landowner and the forester in managing the property to meet the owner’s stated objectives. A plan typically seeks to maximize and balance benefits offered by a property, including financial, recreational, aesthetic, and environmental with emphasis or priority on those amenities most important to the owner.
Our forest management planning starts with personal interview with you. We will ask you “What do you want to do with your property both short-term and long-term”? Theses objectives are different for every client that I have ever worked with. Here are some examples: Improve habitat for wild turkey, enhance the quality and growth of my timber, improve the property for recreational hiking, restore a longleaf pine ecosystem, design an aesthetically pleasing timber harvest, make improvements to will increase the property’s real estate value, develop a timber harvest plan that will allow me to cut timber on a sustained basis, and I want to start an understory burning program on my property. We need to know what your vision of the property is in the future. Are you currently pleased or unhappy with the condition of your forestland? The forest management plan we prepare for you needs to reflect your goals and objectives and how they intend to use the property.
The next step is to review the existing conditions of your property before we start any planning. This evaluation will involve walking over the entire property and doing an inventory of the current conditions. This will also involve a discussion of past management history. Has any timber been harvested on the property, have you completed any reforestation or timber improvement projects on the property, where have you built roads or access trails? An initial forest evaluation will include basic information such as forest types found on the property, tree quality and health, tree age and size, tree growth rates, location of streams and wetlands, location of roads and trail and soil and site quality. The inventory may involve more detailed data depending on your overall objectives. We will also gather additional information from such sources as soil maps, aerial photographs, and topographic maps to aid in the evaluation and analysis.
With all this information and data we prepare a detailed forest management plan designed to achieve your overall management objectives. The written plan will outline how your land objectives can become reality. Besides containing a detailed evaluation of existing conditions, your plan will give you a glimpse of what your property may look like in the future, and the steps needed to get there. My plans are written so they are easy to read, written in layman terms, and provide detail step-by-step instructions on how to achieve your goals.
Your plan will include:
- A list of your management objectives
- A color map of your entire property delineating your different forest-timber types based on age and species.
- A detailed description of each management parcel including age, size, species present, growth rate, and past history.
- Digital photographs of each stand.
- Management recommendations and how these recommendations can be implemented.
- A budget of expected expenses and revenues
- A timeline of recommended actions
- And some appended materials to help you better understand the management process.
Once the landowner has read and reviewed the plan it is time to “get down to work”. We will meet and discuss next steps and lay out an action plan for the next several years. I am equipped to help you follow through with your plan by providing you as much or as little assistance as you feel you need. Some of my landowners only want to sign contracts and cash checks, while others with more experience will take the plan and implement much of it on their own.
Your written plan also serves as a guide to helping you achieve your objectives by providing you with a timeline of specific tasks. Forest management is a long-term endeavor so you will need to update your plan at least every five years. Changing wood markets, financial needs, and available resources will require some flexibility in planning so a reevaluation every five years important to find out what has been completed, what has changed and what still needs to be done or done differently.
Those that have developed plans for their properties and have implemented them find the most satisfaction from their investment in their property. The rewards are numerous. So, let’s get started today.