What is a Management Plan?
Simply put, a forest management plan describes your property, what you want to do with it, and how and when to carry out your plans for it.
Why have a management plan?
For woodland owners, the most important reason to develop a management plan is so you can learn about your forest and develop or refine a course of action, given how it looks today and how you want it to look in the future. Primarily, a plan helps you:
- Consider what you might do on your property to improve its condition.
- Save time and money, and avoid costly mistakes that may not be correctable.
- Organize your business records and keep track of activities on your property.
- Communicate your vision with others who use the property or heirs who may be caring for it in the future.
- Demonstrate to others your commitment and interest in continued woodlot management.
- Apply for cost-share programs.
- Obtain a sustainable forest management certification.
While you may not realize it at first, taking the step to learn about your forest and deciding what you want to do with it through a management plan is taking a step toward ensuring that your forest will be managed sustainably, such that its many resources are available for many generations to come.
Who should write your management plan?
Since much is learned about the forest through the management planning process, there is value in having whoever is involved in the day-to-day management of your forest also serving as the plan developer. This could be you – the landowner – or a professional forester, biologist, or other professional natural resource specialist. It could also be a mentor – a friend, relative, or neighbor with the skill and energy to engage you in the planning process and link you with the necessary sources of natural resources expertise. Sometimes you can be the lead author; or you may wish to be the reviewer. You can hire a professional consulting forester to write a plan for your property. Regardless of who writes the plan, it must be your plan in the end.
Reviewing and Updating a Management Plan
Going through the process of management planning and then implementing the plan is more important than the actual management plan itself. As you implement actions, you might think of new ideas. Storms, insects and diseases, and droughts may unexpectedly change your forest conditions. Forest product markets are constantly changing. Your personal or family situation may change which may cause you to reassess your goals. In this sense, forest management planning is a continuous process and the plan document is a living document – more suited for being housed in a 3-ring binder than bound up and put on a shelf. Don’t be afraid to write notes in the margins of your plan and paper clip photos of actions being implemented.
It is a good idea to review your plan periodically – especially at the beginning of each year to begin activity planning for the actions you have scheduled to take place. Another time to visit and review your plan is when an action is completed. This is the time to complete your record keeping, make notes on modifications to the action and statements about your satisfaction with the results as they relate to your objectives and goals. Finally, while many forest management plans have a 10 year planning horizon; it is a good idea to redo the formal planning process every five years – beginning with a re-assessment of your goals and objectives, and management unit boundaries. Ending with a new schedule of planned actions for the next 5 years.