Introduction Forest Types
Forest Characteristics Management
Forest Contributions Special Considerations
The Forest Plan Assistance


                         From the Michigan Society of American Foresters

The Importance of a Forest Management Plan

Though forests can provide clean water, fuelwood, recreation, timber, wildlife and scenic value in numerous combinations, any action taken at one time may affect available choices for years to come.  Forest planning can integrate and optimize management of all these forest attributes. 

Forest planning is the process of comparing the forest owner’s ideas with the current condition of the woodlot and the inherent capabilities of the forest to provide goods and services on a sustainable basis.  This comparison will consider any obligations or constraints pertaining to the forest owner and the property.  This is the first step in active forest management, which may include timber harvesting, tree and shrub planting for timber production or wildlife habitat, or even the creation of forest openings to enhance diversity.

All forest owners have a plan, even if it is simply how they imagine their woodlot in the future.  The advantage of a formal written plan is that it can more easily address complex considerations and resolve possible inconsistencies and conflicts between desired outcomes.  A written plan is an excellent way to convey one’s vision of the property to the next generation.  It also serves as a helpful reminder of our vision of the future.  Management plans are useful when one participates in conservation programs, Tree Farm or other sustainable management schemes, Michigan’s property tax relief programs, or carbon trading.

A written management plan is the blueprint of a woodlot.  It begins with a statement of specific goals and objectives.  Goals tend to be long-term and describe the desired future condition of the woodlot.  Objectives are actions taken to achieve the goals.  These are followed by a description of the woodlot and how it fits into the surrounding ecological landscape.  The narrative may include physical features such as soil properties, wetlands, and topographic and hydrologic features.  It details the presence of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants and wildlife, including rare and threatened species that are found or may be found there.  A variety of data sources are available, including site-specific field work on a particular property.  A useful map of the woodlot (Figure 9) shows the physical features of the property including the vegetative cover types (stands), roads, buildings, topographic features, and surface water.  Additional maps may be added to show soils types and the locations of proposed treatments.  Finally, sustainable forest management alternatives are presented that promote the forest owner’s goals.

Forests are dynamic and management plans must be adaptable to changing forest and market conditions.  For this reason, all forest plans need to be monitored, evaluated, and periodically updated to ensure forest conditions have not changed and that the plans are still relevant. 

Forest owners should consider the advice and assistance of professional foresters and other resource professionals when developing a forest plan.  The scope, detail, timetable, cost, and funding of the forest plan should be agreed upon prior to its preparation.  Forest owners should also consider the amount of time and financial resources required to implement provisions laid out in the plan. 




Management plans begin with a clear statement of the landowner’s objectives, both general and specific, for the short and long run. 

Maps depict the physical attributes of the property, including vegetative cover types (stands), streams, roads, wetlands and other important characteristics.  Additional maps that show soil types or treatment areas may be helpful.

A narrative description assesses the current condition of the property and its physical and biological capability to provide desired goods and services. 
An intended course of action outlines alternatives that promote sustainable forest management.  This may include plans for planting, thinning and harvesting.  Regular monitoring of forest resources will help keep the plan updated and relevant.




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This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Michigan State University Extension Forest in the Upper Peninsula.  Comments, questions, and suggestions are gratefully accepted. 

Last update of this page was 9 January, 2014




This site is hosted by School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.

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