Your forest management plan is the written story of your woodlands. It contains the hopes and dreams you have for your land and chronicles changes to your woods over time. Forest management plans are important because they list goals and outcomes, whether you are building a trail or cutting enough firewood to heat your home every year.
If you are enrolled in Use Value Appraisal, a program that provides a lower property tax rate for working forests, or if you wish to participate in a cost share program through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) or Forest Legacy, you will need to develop a Forest Stewardship Plan. You will also need a forest management plan if you intend to become a Tree Farmer or have the wood from your land certified by a third party organization.
Forest management plans always include maps. Maps display the property boundaries of your land, the location of different forest stands (groups of trees of similar type and age), roads, trails, and streams. Other features noted on maps are hills, wetlands, openings, and buildings within the forest, as well as a size approximation and location of your woods within the larger landscape of the forest.
Even if you hire someone else to draft your forest management plan, the plan should indicate what you value most in the parcel and would like to enjoy over time. A professional can perform an inventory on your land to determine the resources present before any plan writing begins.
Many consulting foresters write plans and later help the landowners implement them by overseeing harvesting, road construction, invasive plant control, or wildlife habitat improvement.
There are several websites that can help you write your own plan. My Land Plan is a popular site you can use to help you plan the future of your woods. Whether you write your forest management plan yourself or see the assistance of a professional, your County Forester can give you the tips you will need to get started.