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.)