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Forest Stewardship Plans: Why They Are Important

The following is based upon an article provided through a joint initiative of Cornell University Cooperative Extension and the New York Forest Owners Association, written by Meredith Odato, Forest Resources Extension Assistant. Cornell University Cooperative Extension. Ithaca, NY.

Forest Stewardship Planning - A Countdown: Nine Reasons Why You Need a Forest Stewardship Plan

Countless forest owners and their New York forest land have already benefited from the development and implementation of stewardship plans. However, there is still a need for more forest landowners to develop a useful document for the management of their property. Although time and effort is needed to prepare a forest stewardship plan, the benefits of a well-written plan far outweigh the costs. Let me share several good reasons for you to contact the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation for assistance with forest stewardship planning.

Reason 1. A forest stewardship plan will help you get to know your forest.
Plan development is an intensive process all the way from field data to finished document, and includes a plethora of information. Even if you are not the person directly collecting field data, you will still be involved in the process of carefully examining resources you have for management. By the time your plan is complete, you will know, for example, if you have any unique habitats or perhaps uncommon plant or animal species dwell on your land. As a result of the plan building, you will become more familiar with your property boundaries and general topography. And if you are really involved in the process of field data collection, you'll familiarize yourself with every nook and cranny of your land. You may be interested in viewing an outline of a Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan.

Reason 2. A forest stewardship plan requires you to write down your ownership objectives.
This is the most important component in any stewardship plan. All management decisions should be based on whether or not they meet the objectives established by you, the landowner. Constructing three or four main objectives you wish to accomplish on your property will force you to examine what is important to you. Whether your primary goal is high quality timber production or wildlife habitat management, you and people who help you manage your property will benefit from an explicit statement of your interests.

Reason 3. An inventory of your property will provide you with valuable knowledge.
An inventory documents the resources available on your property. This is a necessary step before writing a stewardship plan. For example, what if your land doesn't offer the resources you need to meet your landowner goals? What if your land does offer a unique resource that you were not previously aware of? A detailed property inventory will answer these questions and more. By determining the species, sizes, and health of your trees, for example, you will be able to determine if your woodland can be harvested in the near future. An inventory helps define the capacity of the resources to meet your objectives.

Reason 4. A plan includes soils information.
A description of the soils on your property will offer how the soils may affect the ease with which your obtain your landowner goals. Soils information can inform you of what you can do and where you can do it. For example, you may had hoped to create a trail system at a specific location, but the general location you have chosen is susceptible to erosion because of characteristics in the soil surface.

Reason 5. Property maps are a fun and useful feature in a forest stewardship plan.
Many landowners without an existing plan probably do not have aerial photos or detailed topographic maps of their property. Any map included in a stewardship plan should reveal property boundaries, management unit (also called stand) boundaries, management unit identification labels, physical features such as roads and ponds, and of course a north arrow. These requirements generate a useful property map, which helps a landowner become further acquainted with their property and the surrounding area.

Reason 6. A plan helps you to build a relationship with your local professionals.
If you choose to prepare a forest stewardship plan, you will likely not be the person actually preparing the plan. At some point you will need to contact a professional forester, possibly through your local NYS Department of Environmental Conservation or a private forester. Your forester will help you by offering their scientific knowledge about the resources on your property. They can help you to more clearly articulate your goals based on your available time, interest, money, and energy (TIME). After communicating with them and other landowners, even your own spouse, you will once again have a better idea of what your land has to offer.

Reason 7. A carefully written forest stewardship plan is an important document.
With this document you may be eligible to request financial assistance under various federal cost share programs There are potential benefits available under the Internal Revenue Service tax code for active forest landowners. Your land is your investment!

Reason 8. Every plan includes a schedule for management activities.
Another of the components for any plan is a schedule of management activities. The work schedule summarizes the recommended management activities and their priority for the next decade. Such an outline of events will help keep you on task in meeting your objectives. A work schedule helps you to plan activities for optimum efficiency and in the best sequence to help you accomplish your objectives.

Reason 9. The plan is all about you!
Every part of a forest stewardship plan relates to your landowner objectives, which is why these are the most critical part of any stewardship plan. So start today: think about your reasons for owning land. What you want to get from your land--firewood, hunting opportunities, a place to recreate or just the satisfaction that you are contributing to open-land conservation? Whatever your reasons are, make them count!