Imagine going on an extended trip without looking at a map or plugging in to your GPS device. There will almost certainly be some detours, backtracking, and dead ends along the way. In all likelihood, you would eventually get to your destination, but wouldn’t the trip have been a lot more efficient if you had planned your route? A written Forest Management Plan is the equivalent of your “Road Map to Success” in arriving at your destination in the most efficient way. Having a written plan can be your road map to success in managing your forest.
In the case of your plan, the “destination” is your management objective(s). Your primary objective might be maximizing timber revenues. Or it could be optimizing wildlife habitat in general or for a specific wildlife species. Maybe soil and water conservation, aesthetics, or outdoor recreation is your primary focus. Many landowners want to incorporate some elements of all of these into their management plan, but the primary objective should be the one that’s driving the bus. Whatever your objectives, your natural resources professional will have to know what those are in order to prepare a plan that works for you. Otherwise, you will have a road map that takes you to the wrong destination.
A good Forest Management Plan will not only describe the property in detail and address your objectives, but will have many other components. Those components will include various maps (location, topographical, soils, timber type), stand specific recommendations, and a proposed timetable for implementation. The plan should not only tell you the what but should also tell give you the why, when, and how so that you can understand and implement the recommendations. Although the plan should be your “fingerprint” which is unique to you, any good natural resource professional should be able to pick it up, read it, and be able to efficiently implement the plan.
In addition to helping you reach your objectives, your management plan also provides other benefits. It consolidates your information in one place so that you don’t have to go looking for it. The plan also reinforces your agricultural status in most states, and it can make you eligible for entry into the Tree Farm system, which will allow your property to be “certified” under Tree Farm’s umbrella certification. The plan may also be desired or required for certain cost share programs.
You should keep in mind that a written management plan should be a flexible tool, not one that is rigid and unbending. It should be consulted on a regular basis and revised to reflect changes in the weather, markets, financial needs, and objectives. Sit down at least once a year with your natural resources professional to review the plan and make needed adjustments. If you are taking an extended trip, don’t you make changes in your route or schedule along the way due to factors such as road construction, traffic, weather, or desired side trips?
At Southern Forestry Consultants, we do much of our written management plan work in the hot summer months. The mostly indoor work fits in well with 95 degree heat and humidity! The summer also comes after our most hectic seasons: tree planting and prescribed burning. During the summer, we don’t take our foot off the gas, but at least we don’t have the pedal on the floor! It’s a good time for us to spend time with you reviewing your plans and objectives. If your current Forest Management Plan was written using stone and chisel, or if you don’t have a plan at all, contact your SFC forester or biologist to get started preparing your “Road Map to Success.”