Five things every woodland owner needs to know
Two months ago, we asked MyMinnesotaWoods.org readers to help us write this story. Thank you to all who responded! Based on our readers’ suggestions, here’s our list:
1. Know what you – and your family – love most about your land. What’s your vision for the future of your land? Do you want more wildlife, more big trees, a quiet refuge, ski trails, a source of income, or something else? All of the above?
Developing a vision for the future of your land is an important step. This vision needs to be based in reality, both in terms of local ecology and also your family’s long-term interest in owning and caring for the land.
What to do: It may seem overly formal, but writing down your vision and talking to your family is a crucial step in achieving it.
2. Understand how your woods are changing. Woodlands are constantly changing. Trees grow, trees die, wind and ice take trees down, insects come and go, climate changes…. All of these changes can affect not only the future of your woodland, but the value of your land and timber.
Sustainable forest management harnesses the natural processes in your woods to match your vision. Thinning your woods, planting trees well suited to the site, and cleaning out insect and disease problems are three simple things you can do to improve the health and productivity of your woods.
What to do: Get to know your woods well. Watch carefully for which trees are dying, which trees are taking their place, what insects are present, which stands are overcrowded, and so on. Not sure how to interpret the changes? Talk to a professional forester.
3. Get a free Forest Stewardship Plan for your property. Forest Stewardship Plans are prepared by local professional foresters. Your plan will include a detailed inventory of your wooded property, including species, ages, stand histories, and more. You’ll also get information about the ecology of your landscape.
Your plan will include specific recommendations for each wooded stand based on your unique objectives. Every plan is specific to the property and the landowner. Whether your focus is wildlife, recreation, big trees, timber, or something else, the plan will recommend ways to get more of it, faster.
Your plan is not binding, but will be helpful as you plan for the future of your land. A current Forest Stewardship Plan is also a requirement for many cost-share and incentive payment programs
What to do: To sign up, contact your local Minnesota DNR Forestry Area Office. The best part? It’s FREE.
4. Know where to find financial and professional help. Local professionals can tell you about cost-share opportunities (to help pay for wildlife habitat improvement, tree planting, woodland improvement, and more). They can help you interpret changes in your land, tell you how wood products markets are changing, and more.
A local professional forester can plug you in to programs like the Sustainable Forests Incentive Act (SFIA), which provides incentive payments to promote sound forest stewardship and keeping land forested. A local professional can also help you enroll in Minnesota’s new (2008) 2c Managed Forest Land tax class, which has a 35% lower property tax rate than 2b timberland.
Finally, if you choose to sell timber, a professional forester can help ensure that you receive top dollar, and also that you’re happy with your woods after the harvest.
5. Get to know other local landowners. Minnesota has at least 20 local private woodland committees, councils, forest landowner co-operatives, and local chapters of the Minnesota Forestry Association (MFA).
You should also know about the Woodland Advisor program. The program offers between 50 and 75 classroom and field workshops every year for family forest owners. The program is managed by Extension, the Minnesota DNR, MFA, and numerous other private and public partners.
Workshops are offered in partnership with local organizations. These events can be an excellent opportunities to meet local landowners and professionals and get answers to your questions.
What to do: For a list of local woodland organizations, visit MFA’s website and click “chapters” on the left.
Add your thoughts: What resources have you found most helpful? What have we missed? Leave a comment to help others learn from your experience.