Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many people who were owners of wooded property. They acquired their property by many different avenues. Some land was passed down through multiple generations. Others were newly acquired. A common theme with many landowners is they have the property for hunting. At least, that is a statement I hear many times. Whatever the reason for ownership, many landowners would like to do more with their property but are uncertain where to look for help.
My opinion of the role of a forester is to educate, to present options, and then use our technical skills to accomplish landowner goals. For me it is a rewarding challenge working with landowners. Sometimes the term “landowner goals” may sound a bit tired and worn out. Without education and options, many landowners are unsure of what can be accomplished. Another concept that many people do not understand is what you see today in a forest will not be the same down the road. When you look at woods that have not had activity (thinning, harvest, etc.) from year to year, it is hard to see a difference. Wait 15 years and look again – you will see a difference. A trees average life span can vary from 70 years to 5,000 years. Aspen and white birch have shorter life spans (70 years) to the bristle cone pine that has lived 5,000 years. So what are some of the basics that landowners should know?
When you (a landowner) sit down with a forester, what should be some of the first topics covered? Here is a short list:
- What are the forest communities you currently have? What is the health of these stands?
- What is the age class and stocking conditions?
- Do the current stands fit with what you would like? What types of soils are present? Will aspect (hills and slopes) affect the stands?
- Are there plant communities you would like present? Are there animal communities you would like?
Now keep in mind as you start brainstorming, many goals cannot be achieved overnight. But also know that the road to achievement is rewarding and challenging (sometimes there are setbacks). As the brainstorming continues, you have the basics for developing a plan. Keep in mind, if this plan is not shared with future generations, a lot of work can go down the drain. Enthusiasm is an important part of any plan. Adaptability is also important; mother nature has a tendency to throw curve balls every now and then.
So now we are at the point where we understand that we need to know what we own, what condition it is in, and the direction it is headed. And finally, for a long term plan to be effective, we have to get all stakeholders involved.
In future articles, we will take the bullet points listed above and discuss them in more detail.