Eroded forest road due to poor planning
Best Management Practices Before the Timber Harvest


Developing a forest stewardship plan for logging operations

This web article explains how landowners and foresters can develop forest stewardship plans to determine when or if a timber harvest should take place.

Step 1: Identify your ownership objectives.

These objectives describe what you want to get from your property, either the material goods such as timber or the opportunity for experiences such as privacy, recreation, or hunting. . . maybe all these and more. A good starting point is to ask yourself a few questions: Why do you own the property? What do you like? What do you dislike? What do you need (or want) in 5, 10, or 20 years? When you discuss the answers to these questions with your spouse and/or others, you will be able to identify what you want to accomplish. A forester or Master Forest Owner can help you evaluate your objectives and whether they are compatible with the resources on your property.

How to get skilled assistance with your forest decisions

Step 2: Understand what the plan can do

A good forest stewardship does not have to be complex or expensive. A basic plan for your woodlot provides aesthetic, economic and logistical benefits. The plan allows landowners to integrate seemingly complicated objectives such as timber harvesting, habitat enhancement for specific wildlife species, and recreational trails. Planning ensures that management activities move towards and include the landowner's objectives and provide the optimal variety of desired benefits. For landowners who want to deduct the value of their forestry work as a business expense, they must meet the IRS definition as an active participant. A management plan can document the role of the landowner in the management process or the intent of certain activities.

Step 3: Know what is in a forest plan
A typical management plan has four sections:

1. Statement of the landowner objectives. It's important that these are the objectives of the landowner and not the objectives of the forester helping the landowner.

2. Property and forest description. This would include: a legal property description; an assessment of the condition of the different areas or management units for timber, wildlife, recreation, or other uses; characterizations of the soils, especially any limitations of use such as poorly drained or stony soils.

3. Work plan or calendar of scheduled events. You'll likely want a fairly detailed plan for the current and next year, but then more general targets for the following 5 and 10 year time frame. Each year you can check the tasks completed and revise the current year plan. Part of the schedule might include the tools, equipment, or resources you'll need to complete some task.

4. Appendix that includes maps, historic records, aerial photographs, old pictures, lists of trees or birds seen on the property, etc.

You have likely recognized that the planning process will be easiest with some outside assistance. Fortunately, there are numerous tools, people, and organizations you can access.

  • People who can help include a corps of trained forest-owning volunteers, the Master Forest Owners, who you can reach through your local Cooperative Extension office.
  • The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation has a program called "Cooperative Forest Management" in which public service foresters may be able to visit your property and prepare a stewardship management plan with you free of charge.
  • You can contact a consulting forester or an industrial forester for assistance with a plan, though they may charge a fee or expect some future relationship for their services.

    Once you have your plan use it to your full advantage. Use the schedule of activities to plan the yearly events, perhaps when children are home for the summer or in-laws come to visit. Use the description of the different management units to think about places to put hiking trails, picnic areas, or potential bird watching locations. Take the advice of your forester to help you evaluate offers from someone who shows up at your door and wants to buy your timber -- if your plan doesn't call for a timber sale then you're likely better off to let the offer pass.

A management plan is a useful tool that will serve you for years to come. It is a critical starting point for the long-term stewardship of your wooded acreage.

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Please cite source: Cornell Cooperative Extension, 2004
Written by James Ochterski, CCE - Schuyler County