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Article #18, December 1998
By Bill Cook

            The talk about having a forest management plan for your property has been increasing.  Thereís public funding to help pay for the cost.  But why have a plan?  What good will it do?  Might sound kinda dumb.  Well, letís say at the outset that no forest needs a plan.  At least not in the same sense that it needs sunlight or soil.  Trees and animals will grow whether we have a plan or not.  Itís people that need a forest management plan. 

            Forests provide commodities and opportunities to society, including privately held forests.  And not just timber, but a lot of other things, too.  The number of people is growing.  The ways in which each person uses the forest is growing.  The forest is growing, too, but not as fast as the demands are.  Private forests are under rapidly increasing pressure from society.  The bottom line is that we need forest management plans to help us efficiently and sustainably utilize our forest resources.  There are other reasons, too.

            Whatís in a plan?  Anything you want, almost.  Most foresters will not sign off on practices that are blatantly abusive.  Setting that aside, the skyís the limit.  Usually things like timber cruises, forest type maps, wildlife habitat improvement, road and trails, soils, and recreational opportunities are built into a forest plan.  The plan makes no obligations to anyone.  Obligations come later if you decide to enroll in a cost-share program of some kind.  If you want financial assistance for planting trees, you may have to meet certain conditions and make certain promises.  But all that happens AFTER the plan.  The plan itself is non-binding.

A forest plan is a great way to store all the ideas you have about your forest.  It will describe what you have, which can be useful for more than just the fun in knowing.  If your memory is like mine, after a few years it becomes increasingly harder to remember long-term ideas.  A plan can be pulled out of the file and reviewed periodically.  It can be changed, too. 

            A forest plan will help keep desired activities, like timber harvests, on schedule.  Most things take some time to set up and prepare for.  Even building a wildlife pond requires arranging for contractors and obtaining permits.  A forest plan is also a prerequisite for most cost-share programs or to enroll your land under Michiganís Commercial Forest Act. 

            Another important, but often overlooked, reason for a plan is federal income taxes.  When you have that timber sale, the income is taxable under IRS guidelines. And the IRS treats timber sale income differently than many income sources.  Having a management plan goes a long way in qualifying you for the most beneficial tax group.  

            Who does forest plans?  Foresters, for the most part.  For information, look in the phone book for the nearest Conservation District, MSU Extension office, or the DNR Forest Management Division.  In most cases, the plan costs $400, of which you pay only a $100.  Perhaps, most importantly, the process of developing a plan will help you organize your thoughts about your woods, and help you get to know them better.  People who own woodlands have a valuable and interesting resource.  Learning about it and working with it can be just plain fun.

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Bill Cook is an MSU Extension forester providing educational programming for the entire Upper Peninsula. His office is located at the MSU Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center near Escanaba. The Center is the headquarters for three MSU Forestry properties in the U.P., with a combined area of about 8,000 acres. He can be reached at cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.

Prepared by Bill Cook, Forester/Biologist, Michigan State University Extension, 6005 J Road, Escanaba, MI  49829
906-786-1575 (voice),  906-786-9370 (fax),  e-mail:  cookwi@msu.edu

Use / reprinting of these articles is encouraged. Please notify Bill Cook.
By-line should read "Bill Cook, MSU Extension" Please use the article trailer whenever possible.

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