1: Preparing a Woodland Stewardship Plan

Activities: Stewardship Plans

How these activities will help you as a woodland owner:

A woodland stewardship plan is the most basic and important tool that you can have to help manage your woodland. These activities will help you develop a vision for your property, identify opportunities, and provide specific recommendation that can help make your vision a reality.

Step 1. Work with a Forester

  1. Set up an appointment with a forester for a “woods walk” on your property. If you are uncertain how to contact a forester, go to your state department of natural resources as a starting point. The goal of this walk will be to learn about the history of your land, the types and abundance of trees species on your property, the capability of your land, the ecological processes currently at work, opportunities for management, and financial and technical assistance programs that can help you meet your goals.

Step 2. Identify Your Goals

  1. Identify and write down your woodland goals. Discuss with your family:
    • How did you come to own your woodland property?
    • What do you and your family do when you are there?
    • What outcomes do you seek from owning your woodland?
    • Write goals that are as specific as possible. For example, a goal to provide the best possible wildlife habitat is too broad a goal to guide management. Your property may support dozens of species and you probably cannot provide ideal habitat for all of them, so which species or groups of species do you really care about?
  1. If you have multiple goals, prioritize those goals or think about where on your property each goal is most relevant.

Step 3. Inventory and Evaluate Your Property

  1. Work with a forester to inventory and evaluate your property. Chapter 2: Conducting a Woodland Inventory describes specific inventory techniques that a forester often will perform, but you need to prepare for the forester’s visit.
  2. Get the deed for your woodland property and note its legal description. If you cannot find your deed, go to your County Recorder to request a copy.
  3. Accurately locate your property boundaries and mark them with a fence, paint mark on trees, rock piles, stakes, or other means. If the boundaries are not clearly identifiable, you may want to have your land surveyed.
  4. Clear brush from your property lines to make them more visible and avoid trespassing when you, your contractors, or your neighbors carry out forestry practices.
  5. Gather historical facts concerning previous land use or management activities that could have influenced the development of your woodland to help the forester understand the composition of your woodland and to predict the results of future management practices. Such activities might include: livestock grazing, agricultural cropping, timber harvesting, tree planting, fires, pest outbreaks, and other disturbances.
  6. While a forester should prepare a map of your property, you can save that person time and therefore, your cost, by collecting basic maps and information. Aerial photographs and a number of online tools can be used as a foundation for the map. Using the map, you can:
    • Identify and mark key features of your property such as roads, trails, and bodies of water.
    • Mark the location of unique natural, historical, or archaeological resources. I
    • Obtain a soil type map and associated soil interpretive information. Read all the information you can find regarding soil suitability for growing timber or building roads. Share the maps and interpretive information with your forester.
  7. Make a list of all the information you want included in your woodland stewardship plan and give this list to your forester. It may include these components and others:
    • Date of the plan.
    • Your name and contact information.
    • Legal description of the property.
    • Your management goals.
    • Description of the ecosystem in which your property is located and ecological issues of local concern that may influence your management.
    • Inventory of known or potential historic and cultural resources (e.g., cemeteries, burial mounds, foundations). Your forester may be able to obtain information from a statewide database of such resources.
    • Inventory of known or potential threatened, endangered or specialist interest species that may be present on your property. Your forester may be able to obtain information from a statewide database of such species.
    • History of your property’s past management.
    • Map or aerial photograph of the property approximately to scale, showing the following:
      • Property boundaries
      • Woodland boundaries
      • Land uses
      • Roads and trails
      • Utility wires, pipelines, or other rights-of-way
      • Buildings
      • Water resources, e.g., perennial and intermittent streams, lakes, and wetlands and seasonal ponds, seeps, and springs.
      • Location of wildlife habitats including mast, crops, game trails, snags, dens, nesting sites, thickets, etc.
      • Unique natural, historical, or archaeological resources
      • Description of each stand, e.g., timber quantity, quality, size, product potential, and other characteristics by species and site factors affecting a species’ ability to grow, reproduce and compete, e.g., soil depth, texture and chemical properties, and position on the landscape (such as north or south slope aspect, ridge or valley, etc.)
    • Management practices recommended for each stand, including alternatives and their outcomes.
    • Timeline for accomplishing recommended practices.

Step 4. Develop Stand Objectives and Management Alternatives

  1. Choose management objectives for each woodland stand that relate to your overall property goals. While your property goals tell the forester what benefits you expect to derive from your woodland as a whole, your management objectives indicate what benefits you expect to derive from a particular stand. Knowing your stand objectives, the forester can better recommend appropriate management practices.

Step 5. Assess Management Constraints

  1. Make a list of the resources you are willing to devote to woodland management, including your time and funding, among others.
  2. Talk with your forester about how to overcome constraints, such as:
    • The amount of time you have available to do the work.
    • Your experience and expertise levels.
    • The availability of skilled contract labor.
    • The equipment available.
    • Your financial limitations.
    • The availability of government financial aid.
    • The potential economic return, including the tax implications.
    • The presence of cultural resources and threatened, endangered, or special interest species that are regulated by state or federal law.
    • The zoning laws or forest practice regulations in effect in your area.
    • The prevailing attitudes of neighbors or the general public.

Step 6. Choose Management Practices and List Them on a Schedule

  1. Prepare an activity schedule, covering at least five to ten years, that lists management practices and the approximate dates when they should occur. These are the practices recommended by a forester that you choose to do.
  2. At least annually, plan to walk through your woodland and look for damage by pests, fire or wind, unauthorized harvest, damaged fences, and soil erosion.

Step 7. Keep Good Records

  1. Create a filing system to contain records that may be important when filing income tax returns, selling property, or settling an estate. Management records may include:
    • Management plan.
    • Timber inventory.
    • Management activities accomplished (what, when, where).
    • Sources of forestry assistance (name, address, telephone, e-mail addresses and web sites).
    • Association memberships.
    • Suppliers of materials and equipment.
    • Contracts.
    • Insurance policies.
    • Forestry income and expenses.
    • Deeds and easements.


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Woodland Stewardship: A Practical Guide for Midwestern Landowners, 3rd Edition Copyright © 2019 by University of Minnesota Extension is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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