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Forest Stewardship Program

Buck in VelvetMinnesota’s Soil and Water Conservation Districts are uniquely suited to provide land management assistance to private landowners to protect our water and soil resources. Traditionally, this assistance has been focused on agricultural practices, but because of the increasing use of woodlands, conservationists have recognized the need to provide an increasing level of assistance to woodland owners.

Deer in wildlife opening.Managing private woodlands can be a challenging and sometimes overwhelming task. The options are endless and the results of poor management decisions can take decades to heal. In the past, technical advice was hard to get, but things have changed. Today, there are many opportunities for landowners to get technical assistance on managing their woodland. One of these opportunities is through the Minnesota Forest Stewardship Program.

The Aitkin County Soil and Water Conservation District became active in Forest Stewardship planning in 1998 when a full-time forester was hired to write Forest Stewardship plans. With over 500,000 acres of family forest woodlands in Aitkin County, the need to provide an increasing level of forestry assistance was easy to recognize.

Through this program, you can have a Forest Stewardship plan developed for your property. A forester will visit your woodland to assess its potential. Then you need to ask yourself, “What do I want from my woodland?” With an assessment of your woodland’s potential and your objectives in mind, a forester can suggest specific management practices such as: planting trees, fencing, installing wildlife nesting boxes, clearing access trails, harvesting timber, maintaining firebreaks, thinning a dense stand of trees, or protecting a unique natural resource. In a nut shell, a Forest Stewardship plan simply describes your natural resources, your ownership goals, and recommends management possibilities.

A Forest Stewardship plan is a working guide that allows the landowner to maximize the wildlife, timber, recreation, and aesthetic value of their woodland. By working with a natural resource professional, you will learn about specific management practices that could improve your wildlife habitat, preserve natural beauty, enhance recreation opportunities, protect soil resources, grow wood products, and generate income. All plans guide landowners to implement a plan that meets their goals for the property while maintaining and improving the resource.

To qualify for the Forest Stewardship Program, you need to own a woodland and have an interest in actively managing it. Become a woodland steward by actively managing your land. Your management decisions will affect the environment for decades to come. A Forest Stewardship Plan helps you choose wisely. Public agencies have been managing their land for many years, now it is time for private landowners to start actively managing their land.

For more information on Minnesota's Forest Stewardship Program, please contact Dennis Thompson with the Aitkin County SWCD at (218) 927-6565.