In order to meet the forestry needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations, it is important to recognize that we are not only owners of our land, but stewards of it. Stewardship planning as a science and an art is pivotal to the overall health of our natural systems. To create a sustainable forest for the future, stewardship planning must consider:
~ The Nature of Each Unique Property
Each forest has a unique landscape and set of needs. All SRM Stewardship Plans consider a wide range of needs, including boundary line work, forest inventory and appraisal, biodiversity, wildlife management, reforestation, healthy soils, water quality protection, erosion and sedimentation plans, sustainable timber harvesting, and more. For more detailed information, see SRM Land Management Services.
~ The Interests and Objectives of Landowners
Whenever land is owned by people, there is inherent partnership between the land and the land owners. Both must be served. Ideally, they serve each other. As Aldo Leopold said, "When land does well for its owner, and the owner does well by his or her land: When both end up better by reason of their partnership, we have conservation. When one or the other grows poorer, we do not." With this in mind, the most important question Brian Knox ever asks a landowner is "What history do you want to paint on the landscape?"
There is no one correct way to manage a property. Knowing what the land is capable of, and is best suited to, is essential. Knowing what a landowner wants and needs (from immediate income to the pleasure of passing on a hardwood forest to great-grandchildren) is also important for the long-term planning and care of the land. When these questions are asked in advance, the stewardship plan has the greatest chance of being followed for generations to come. SRM helps landowners to create a vision for their land before taking action and then prepares a plan that assists landowners in following through on this vision.
~ Balancing Short-term Needs & Long Term Goals
For many forest landowners, it is necessary to generate income from their forests to offset the costs of owning the land. With education and planning, this can be orchestrated to meet long-term forest goals, protect neighboring land and wildlife, and even increase the health and vitality of the forest.
In fact, a good plan can often generate both short-term income and the funds needed for long-term management. The following case study details an actual SRM management project. It shows how SRM used a sustainable timber harvest to generate income for the landowner, improve the genetic integrity of the forest, and provide funds to develop and implement a stewardship plan.
In 2003, Sustainable Resource Management was approached by a forest landowner in his mid-fifties. The owner had an offer from a timber company's forester to buy a select cut of timber from his 200 acre property. They offered $89,000 for a cut that he was assured would not only be sustainable, but would also allow him to harvest timber again at his retirement ten to fifteen years hence. His trees were already marked, yet this landowner wanted a second opinion from SRM on the value of his timber and the sustainability of the cut as marked.
Additional information was gathered by SRM. While the landowner welcomed immediate income, his priority was to be sure there would be a significant income available to him through a harvest at the time of his retirement. He also wanted to be sure that the land, which had been inherited from his parents, would be healthy and have value even after his retirement harvest. Finally, he felt he did not have immediate financial resources to develop a plan and care for the land in the short-term without some kind of immediate harvest.
SRM identified both high quality and low quality timber on the 100 acres of forested area (the other 100 acres were open field). It was clear that the timber was currently marked as a diameter limit cut that would take all of the desirable trees measuring fourteen inches and bigger. Not only would this remove all of the genetically superior trees, it would completely rid the forest of cherry. Such a cut would leave the landowner with a genetically inferior forest that would have a significantly reduced value at the time of a second harvest. Although an exact dollar value was not immediately certain, it appeared a truly sustainable harvest (as defined by SRM) could generate as much or more income if the timber were offered to a variety of buyers.
SRM proposed a stewardship plan that would generate enough income to pay for itself while enhancing the property in the short and long-terms. In specific, the plan would focus on a Crop Tree Release (a form of harvest that allows the very best trees in the stand to grow while removing the trees that are competing with them). In addition, only half of the forested area would be included in the immediate harvest. This would allow the rest of the area to receive a much needed invasive plant removal before it was harvested in order to insure a re-growth of the desired species. It would also allow for 5 more years of growth, which would be needed before the timber was mature enough to harvest.
SRM marked about fifty percent of the trees that were originally marked for sale. This new selection of timber was offered to a variety of competitors through a sealed bid. The final bid came in at $120,000. This was 25% more than the original forester's offer and this harvest left the best trees in the stand.
That additional 25% was used to pay for a stewardship plan, the removal of invasive species, and all costs associated with the sale. Another harvest is currently scheduled for a portion of the property in 2008, with an estimated worth of about $10,000. In addition, the previously harvested area will be ready for a second harvest in the desired 10-15 years with an estimated income of another $120,000-$150,000. Thus, the final income from the property over fifteen years totals between $250,000 and $280,000. Even after the last currently planned harvest, the property will retain its genetic integrity, long-term health, and potential for generations to come.