Tune Up Your Forest Management Skills

Mike Nystrom (DNR) with Sam Madsen on his tree farm.

by: Sam Madsen, Chehalis resident and business owner

Have you ever wondered what to do with the trees on your property?

A few years ago I became a forest landowner. Acquiring a tree farm had been a goal of mine since I was a Boy Scout. I had finally done it. I knew I wanted to be an active manager, but quickly figured out that I had a lot to learn. Whether you’ve recently purchased or inherited a forest property, or have owned it for years, one thing you likely share with other owners is a feeling of being overwhelmed by the many choices available  to manage your woodlands. I highly recommend taking the Forest Stewardship Coached Planning course offered by Washington State University and Washington Department of Natural Resources to further your knowledge about managing your tree farm.

A lot of people, even some who own forestland, believe there are just two ways to manage it; you either preserve it or exploit it. Forest Stewardship training shows you a third, and in my opinion, a better option. It sets you on a path of learning how to manage your forest in a balanced manner. Managing forestland is not a zero-sum game. You can be a good steward of your forest and still get reasonable financial returns. Here’s an example:  I recently did a precommercial thinning of about 250 acres of forestland on my tree farm. Along with the thinning, we created almost a hundred wildlife trees – trees that will become snags. We didn’t ruin any crop trees for this, only “snagging” trees that would have been cut down in the thinning anyway. To top it off, the whole process – even the thinning – was mostly paid for by the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP),  a cost share program sponsored by the US Department of Agriculture. I was able to improve my crop of trees, while creating additional habitat, for little out-of-pocket cost. These are the types of things you learn in the Forest Stewardship Coached Planning course.

Having taken a few forestry courses in college (prior to going through the forest stewardship program), some of the subject matter was not new to me. Subjects that took a semester to cover in college were condensed into one hour lectures in the Forest Stewardship Coached Planning classes. While it does not give you a complete understanding of every topic, this training is a crash course in forestry, intended to spark further study. It gives you the basics and a list of people you can contact for help. It also helps you construct a plan on what you want and need to do on your tree farm.

In addition to learning from this program, I must add that I really enjoyed the whole experience. The lectures were excellent – even entertaining – taught by experts who were well prepared and passionate about their area of expertise. The field day was a lot of fun, and the site visit was extremely helpful. I enjoyed the program so much, next time the course is offered in my area, I plan to attend the lectures. If you are a forest landowner or just wish to learn about forest management, I highly recommend this program.

Here  are some upcoming opportunities for you to get involved in a Forest Stewardship Coached Planning class:

Deer Park – Starting September 4. For more information call Steve McConnell at 509-477-2175 or click here.

Chehalis – Starting September 5. For more information call Mike Nystrom at 360-742-8506 or email mike.nystrom@dnr.wa.gov 

Oak Harbor – Starting October 3- For more information call Kevin Zobrist at 425-357-6017.

Preston – Starting September 24 – For more information call Kevin Zobrist at 425-357-6017 or click here.