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Goals, Hopes, and Aims
Article #331 February 2022
By Bill Cook

Why own a woodland?  Sometimes forming written goals and objectives can be difficult.  These are pliable notions that can morph over time.

          The dynamics of forest change are significantly slower than the ways in which an owner, or series of owners, might view the forest.  Few people would argue with goals that include a healthy forest, with vigorously growing trees, and good wildlife habitat.  But, what does than mean in terms of management?  How do you know what’s what?  How do you get from “A” to “B”?
          Stated goals and objectives are essential parts of a forest management plan.  Such a plan is also a requirement for cost-share and property tax programs.  Having a written plan may also help with preparing federal income taxes from a timber sale. So, getting these ideas down on paper can be a critical step. 
          Articulating goals and objectives can be challenging.  All the owners and decision-makers should be involved in this conversation, usually family members.  Regular conversations help keep ideas on the table and facilitate transparency.  Having everyone on the same page makes implementation go smoother. 
          It may also be important to include heirship plans.  Who’s going to manage the property after the current owners?  Fair is not always equal.  There exists quite a toolbox to help plan for that eventual transfer of property.  Better to plan than probate. 
          When consulting foresters help forestowners develop a management plan, writing goals and objectives might be hardest part.  What does the forestowner want their woodlands to be in a decade, or more?  How will those desires affect the selection of various practices, and the owner acceptance of those practices? 
          Many times, a vague set of goals allows greater flexibility down the road.  Establishing a schedule of activities and practices might more easily fold into generalized goal statements.  Then again, specific objectives might be easier to accomplish within the timeframe of a management plan. 
          Some consultants will ask potential clients to fill-out a questionnaire that includes some options for goals and objectives, sometimes as a part of a hiring proposal package.  Such an exercise might help the forestowners better define what is important for their property.  Conservation District foresters can with this, too. 
          Walking and talking with professional forester will add a technical dimension to the conversation.  What are the capabilities of the site and soil?  For example, it’s not possible to grow quality sugar maple on wetland soils.  Or, how old is that aspen stand?  Should it be clearcut to regenerate more aspen?  Or, is there enough longer-lived species to allow the forest to change into a different forest type?  What are the pros and cons of that new forest type? 
          “Wildlife” is a common reason for owning property.  So, what sort of wildlife?  If it’s deer hunting, then maybe a set of practices can be discussed that might support that goal.  Sometimes, a conversation might evolve to include other species of wildlife, and different practices that might enhance their habitats. 
          Timber production might not initially be high on an owner’s list of priorities, but the harvest of trees can go a long way to serve a variety of purposes, as well as provide the revenue to accomplish goals.  It might also be necessary with unexpected events such as pest outbreaks or wind damage or grandma headed to the nursing home. 
          Managing a private woodland is the prerogative and responsibility of less than five percent of people in the Lake States.  Yet, the entire citizenry benefits from good decisions that forestowners make, and vice versa.  Some might argue that there’s a social responsibility in forest ownership.  Others will, of course, disagree.
          However, whether forest ownership is thought about as personal, social, or any mix of these two, implementing a well-drafted plan provide be a lifetime of enjoyment and learning. 

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Caption for any of the three:  Imagining the future of a forest can be both challenging and fun.


TRAILER- This website was created by a consortium of forestry groups to help streamline information about forestry and coordinate forestry activities designed to benefit the family forest owner and various publics that make up our Michigan citizenry.  This website is maintained by Bill Cook, Retired Michigan State Extension Forester/Biologist.  Direct comments to cookwi@msu.edu or 906-786-1575.