aerial view of Port Renfrew managed forest land

Planning is a big part of getting the most out of your woodland. Once you’ve conducted your forest inventory and identified your personal goals and objectives, the next step on the path to a successful management plan is to consider the range of management options available and develop a plan to connect your options with your objectives.

We’re big fans of Managing Your Woodland: A Non-forester’s Guide to Small-Scale Forestry in British Columbia. It’s chock full of thorough and thoughtful advice. We’ve summarized some key points below for your easy reference.

1. Identify your management strategy.

Your management options are the range of potential and alternative management approaches, actions, and techniques available to achieve your goals. Your management strategy represents the overall plan for achieving the goals and the forest inventory helps ground your expectations in reality.

A number of factors determine what is possible:

  • Practical considerations (operational feasibility)
  • Financial considerations (cost and return on investment)
  • Woodlot conditions such as age of your forest
  • Biological/ecological characteristics of the site

In some cases you may need to modify your preliminary goals to align more closely with the capabilities of your woodland. This is also a good time to consult a professional expert for assistance and advice in choosing your management options. A mistake at this stage could prove costly later on.

2. Divide your woodland into management areas.

It’s useful to divide your woodland into areas that are similar in terms of how you’ll manage them. Each management area is comprised of stands that are similar enough in species, age, stocking and site characteristics (soil, terrain, etc.) that they can be treated as one unit. Management areas can also consist of areas of your woodland that you wish, or need, to manage for other values, such as wildlife habitat, riparian protection or visual aesthetics.

3. Identify your short-term objectives.

Once you’ve defined the management areas, you can identify your objectives for each area.

  • Will you manage an area as even-aged or uneven-aged?
  • Do you plan to manage for conservation or agroforestry?
  • What products will you produce (sawlogs, firewood, botanicals, grazing)?

Your objectives should be consistent with your goals and focus on what you need or intend to do in the management area over the short-term (five years). These objectives set the stage for scheduling specific management activities you intend to follow:

  • Road building
  • Harvesting
  • Planting
  • Stand tending treatments

4. Make a schedule for your short-term management activities.

A surefire way to achieve the long-term vision you have for your woodland is to follow an activity plan—a list of short-term management activities you develop for each management area on your woodland.

The activity plan provides the detailed steps and activities you plan to undertake on a year-to-year basis. It covers the who, what, when, where and how:

  • Who will do it: owner, manager, contractor, family members, volunteer group
  • What will be done: road construction, harvesting, stand tending, reforestation, etc.
  • Where it will be done: the management area location
  • When it will be done: year, season
  • How it will be done: methods, equipment, treatment, special guidelines

It’s useful to summarize your activity plan in a table format. You might also want to include:

  • An estimate of the cost for each activity, and where the money will come from, to ensure the money is available when needed.
  • Flexibility to allow for unplanned circumstances (changes in markets, weather, new opportunities).
  • Contingencies in case you’re unable to follow through with an activity.

5. Define your management standards and guidelines.

It’s a good idea to set standards and guidelines to ensure your management plan meets the goals and objectives you have for your woodland. Anyone who works on your land should know what these standards and guidelines are. Examples of basic standards include:

  • Target seedling densities for reforestation work
  • Wet-weather and fire season working criteria
  • Maximum skid trail widths

There is a lot of good information available from a variety of sources (e.g. provincial, federal and U.S. state governments; local woodlot associations; forestry professionals; Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations offices).

If you’re a managed forest owner, The Handbook of Best Management Practices for Private Forest Land in British Columbia recommends standards to protect key public environmental values, and help ensure you meet the forest practices requirements set out in the Managed Forest Land Act.

6. Measure your activities as you proceed with your plan.

Ta-da! You did it. You made your management plan. But remember: “If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Planning is a continual process. It doesn’t stop once you’ve produced a hardcopy, hold-it-in-your-hands plan. As you go along, keep track of how well your plan is working—are your management activities achieving the intended results?

The character of your woodland, and your needs, will change so adjust your plan to reflect these shifts and continue to provide clear direction to the operations on the ground.

Let us know if you have questions, feedback or suggestions.