by Maria Janowiak
What do you love about your land? Everyone has a unique connection to their land and their individual reasons for helping to keep it healthy. Writing a management plan for your woods can be an important step for describing how you want to protect and steward your land. In the plan, you’ll describe the current conditions of your land and outline the actions that you want to take over the next 10 or 20 years.
The number-one thing you can do to ensure that you have good a management plan in place is to be specific about your management goals and objectives. These statements describe the benefits and actions that are most important to you, providing a foundation for everything else that follows in the plan. Without clearly-stated goals and objectives, it can be hard for you or the forestry professionals that you hire to know exactly what actions are going to help get you where you want to go.
Management goals describe the broad outcomes that you are trying to accomplish. Goals describe the big picture and set the long-term vision for where you want to go. Goals for a woodlot might include things like:
- Maintain the health of the forests, wetlands, and natural ecosystems on the property.
- Provide high-quality habitat for diverse wildlife species
- Enhance opportunities for recreation
- Protect and maintain water quality
Management objectives are more specific actions that support the completion of a goal. Using the house analogy, your goals form the foundation that you build on, while the objectives are the walls and roof that form the shell of the house. As much as possible, objectives should be SMART:
- Specific: Be clear in describing what needs to happen to help achieve the broader goals you’ve identified
- Measurable: Include metrics that will help you determine whether you have met your goal.
- Achievable: Be realistic about what actions you can take on, breaking big actions into several smaller steps if you need to.
- Relevant: Connect objectives to one or more of your broader management goals to ensure you are heading in the right direction
- Time-bound: Specify a date or time frame for accomplishment, which could be a deadline for accomplishing an action or something that is repeated continually throughout the life of the plan.
As I’ve been working to update my own forest management plan, I realized that my management objectives were vague and did not meet the criteria above. I revised the management goals and objectives for the property, focusing on about 15 acres of bottomland hardwoods dominated by green ash and sugar maple. Our immediate management concern is proactively working to maintain forest cover and health with the looming threat of emerald ash borer (present just miles away). In order to meet the property-wide management goals (listed above as examples), I identified the following management objectives for the next 10 years:
- Maintain forested conditions (avoid forest loss) across the 17 acres of bottomland forests by proactively addressing impending ash mortality from the emerald ash borer.
- Reduce the dominance of green ash to less than 30% of the forest canopy in anticipation of the emerald ash borer by harvesting ash trees for firewood on approximately 10 acres.
- Retail and promote the growth of tree species that may be suitable for future conditions, including silver maple (currently present on the property).
- Plant diverse tree and plant species in harvested areas (up to 5 acres) to supplement forest regeneration, emphasizing areas where ash is currently most abundant.
As you think about your woods, challenge yourself to create clear goals and objectives that describe what you really want to achieve in your woods. After all, like Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.”
MyLandPlan can help you identify your management goals and create a plan for your woods (https://mylandplan.org/what-do-you-want-do-your-land)
The American Tree Farm System has a guide for landowners that describes the information that would go into a management plan: https://www.treefarmsystem.org/stuff/contentmgr/files/1/811656e8116af1c86571cbbf51851fac/files/guide_for_landowners_10.1.2015.pdf
Maria Janowiak is a natural resource professional and woodland owner. Read more about her explorations of the outdoors at https://lifeplusnature.com.