As the saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time."

One of the common misconceptions about the forest is that no planning is necessary for a forest to grow well. Many people believe that a forest will essentially stay the same over a long period of time and if we just leave it alone, it will be fine.

The reality is that trees are living things and living things either grow stronger, increasing in health and vigor, or decline. The rest of the story is that there is a great deal that you can do to positively affect the growth and health of your forest.

Further, there may be a wide range of actions to take in your forest in order to reach particular goals. A sound forest management plan is the foundation you can build upon to reach your goals.

A sound forest management plan is the foundation you can build upon to reach your goals.

1. A basic step toward any successful venture is to have a goal for the outcome.

Some of the goals that you may have for your forestland are wildlife habitat, income from timber sales, privacy from neighbors, firewood production, carbon sequestration, protection of a natural area such as a wetland, or simply the peace and quiet that you enjoy from living in the forest. It is often possible to achieve several different goals on the same area of forestland. To help you think about your goals, the handout Developing Management Goals For Your Property is provided by the Pennsylvania Forest Stewardship Program.

2. As a next step, you should inventory the resources at your disposal to help you reach that goal.

These resources include the forest itself, the amount of time you and your family have to spend working on the land, the equipment you own, the amount of money you budget to invest in your forest, outside funding from government cost-share programs such as WIP, FLEP, CREP, EQUIP, etc., and potential funding from timber sales, hunting leases, ecotourism, etc. A professional forester has the ability to inventory the forest resource and make suggestions regarding cost-share funding.

3. Finally, you must consider the actions that should be undertaken along the way to help you reach the goal.

A forest management plan (also known as a Forest Stewardship Plan when it meets certain criteria or a CAP 106 Plan when it meets NRCS criteria) will address these issues.

A good forest management plan takes into account the goals you have for your forestland, considers the resources at your disposal, and provides an outline of activities over a certain time frame (typically ten years.)

Your Forest Management Plan

The plans developed by Reynwood Forest Management include:

  • An aerial photo
  • Extensive soils report
  • Outline of your property on a topographic map
  • A summary of the forest resource by management units
  • Color photographs taken on your property to provide specific educational information
  • A fifteen year schedule of activities, which takes into account the resources you can reasonably provide to aid in reaching the goals you have

The cost of a forest management plan is based upon the number of acres involved. Currently there are cost-share programs in both Maryland and Pennsylvania that will significantly offset your out-of-pocket cost.

Sample plans are available for viewing upon request.