Creating A Long-Term Vision For Your Forest

A forest management (or stewardship) plan is your roadmap to the forest of your dreams. It helps you decide where you want to go, then helps you figure out how to get there.

A clearly articulated long-term plan is crucial to any kind of effective management of your forest. It lays out your desired outcome for the forest and then the concrete steps needed to achieve them. This will be invaluable when you work with professionals, such as foresters and loggers, to implement management activities on the ground.

As you work on your management plan you will learn a lot about your property, its history, and its potential. It will help you define what you want your forest to be and what is actually possible within the physical constraints of your site. 

It is important to put your management plan down on paper. That way you can share it with others—your family, your forester, other professionals, and future generations. In some cases a plan is mandatory, for example if you want to apply for a cost-share grant or get a bank loan.

Your plan can be as simple or as comprehensive as you want it to be. However, every management plan must include goals and objectives. These are the guiding principles for all your forest activities. 

  1. Start by identifying your goals. Goals are general statements that communicate your vision for your property. One of your goals, for example, might be to make your property more fire safe, another might be to increase habitat diversity for wildlife, and a third to generate income. 
  2. Prioritize your goals. Which are most important or need to be addressed first? 
  3. Define your objectives. While goals are the general vision, objectives are the concrete steps you need to take to reach those goals. For example, if your goal is to increase your forest’s resilience to fire, an objective might be to implement a prescribed burn. Objectives should be very specific, stating times and quantities. E.g., “treat 12 acres of forest by Fall 2012.” 

Your management plan is not a legal document; it is for your own information. However, it should be a living document. Plan to revisit it each year to see how you are progressing and revise it as necessary. 

An excellent outline for your forest management plan can be found in the Forest Stewardship Series 18: Stewardship Objectives and Planning. This publication will walk you through the entire process. In addition, it contains a table of possible goals and objectives to help you think about what you want to do with your forest. 

There is money available to help you develop a forest management plan in consultation with a Registered Professional Forester (RPF). For more information, see funding article on page 12 or contact your local CAL FIRE Forestry Assistant Specialist.