I'm struggling to frame the objectives for my land — Help!

A good forest management plan starts with developing objectives. Since the plan will affect your woods, it’s logical to start with the woods, how you use them and what you value about them.

Think about your woods, consider where you like to spend time, what draws you to those places, what you do on your property, who spends time with you now and will use the woods in the future. Generally, how do you experience your woods? This is important, because eventually your objectives have to match your uses and values.

For example, you might have a short-term need to harvest trees to cover unexpected expenses. If the objective you communicate to your forester is “I need cash,” and you don’t also say “I want to retain oak trees for wildlife food” unfortunately those oak trees might end up becoming someone else’s beautiful floor rather than feeding your wild turkeys.

To begin, gather those who make decisions about the use and future of your woods together and independently make lists of the values each individual associates with the property. Then have everyone draw a “cognitive” map – what they see in their mind’s eye – of the property, showing how they use it – where they go, what is important to their list of values. No one has to be an artist to draw this map, just get it down and name the places. Bring everyone to the table and learn from each other about those special places. For example, the brook shaded by rhododendron that is so cool in the summer, the hemlocks where you gather for lunch in deer season, the path you especially like to walk in the autumn. Your objective might still be to make some money, this new understanding will modify the discussion you will have with your forester.

These values can help to shape your objectives in the short- and long-term.

Consider these questions:

  • What do you want?
  • What do you need? (Two really different questions.)
  • What can you change?
  • What connects you to the land?

Your service forester has a questionnaire that can be copied and used for each one of your decision makers.