Seven questions that can help forest landowners clarify their goals

Having clear goals for your forested land is critical in developing a forest management plan for your property. It’s easier to define those goals by answering a few simple questions.

Forest landowners in Michigan own a special piece of land. Forested land in Michigan offers a wide range of benefits: hunting and other recreational opportunities, privacy and a sanctuary to “get away from it all,” ecosystem services, and timber or other economic opportunities. Decisions and activities on these forests can have positive or negative impacts that will last for decades. Because of these long-term implications, Michigan State University Extension suggests having a management plan developed, regardless of the suite of benefits that a forest owner enjoys.

A forest management plan contains important components about a property’s current and potential forest growth, and what types of actions a landowner can take to reach his/her goals for the land. The foundation for any plan, then, is a set of well-described goals. Landowners often want what is best for their land or they want to leave a healthy forest for their heirs.

How does a forest landowner organize and define his or her goals so a forest manager can help design a plan? A good way to start is to know the past ownership history, current interests and activities on the property, and desired future conditions. More specifically, answering a few brief questions about specific natural resource-related values can help clarify a forest landowner’s goals in a way that can help develop a detailed management plan for the property.

  1. Wildlife habitat: Is it important to you to protect and/or improve wildlife habitat on your land? If so, what species are most important to you?
  2. Timber: Are you willing to have trees cut on your property for any of the following reasons (check any that apply)?
  3. Wetlands and stream sides: Do you know of any wetlands on your property? Do you want to develop, restore or protect them?
    • Cash return on current timber value
    • Enhancement of future economic value
    • Improve wildlife habitat
    • Improve other forest values (i.e., recreation, tree health)
    • Firewood
  4. Fisheries: Are there any streams or ponds on your property? Do you have any concerns about them?
  5. Cultural/historic features: Are there any structures or sites on the parcel that you consider to have cultural or historic significance and that you would like to protect?
  6. Unique features: Are there any unique geological or natural features on the parcel that you would like to protect?
  7. Other conservation: Do you feel you would like to have any windbreaks or shelters built?

Using a short worksheet that answers these types of questions not only helps a professional forester clearly understand the landowner’s goals, but also gives the owner, potential heirs, and other family members a written record of current interests and desires for that special piece of land.

Want to know more about the components of a forest management plan that can benefit both the land and landowner now and into the future? The textbook Woodland Stewardship: A Practical Guide for Midwestern Landowners written by University of Minnesota Extension in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Extension and Michigan State University Extension) can provide vital information on sustainable management planning and practices.

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