Determining Your Objectives for a Forest Management Plan

Many people think that production of timber is the overwhelming objective of forest landowners and that the science and practice of forestry is only about growing timber. This assumption could not be further from the truth. The fact is that landowners such as you often have numerous objectives for their forestland, which may or may not include timber harvesting. Professional foresters are trained to help landowners achieve those objectives. A recent survey of forest landowners (Butler 2008) suggested the following common objectives:

Landowners often have a variety of goals for their forest. Photo credit: John Phelan, Wikimedia Commons. (CC BY-SA 3.0)

  • to enjoy beauty or scenery
  • to live on the land all or part of the time
  • to pass land on to children or other heirs
  • to provide privacy
  • to protect nature and biological diversity
  • to have a land investment
  • to farm or ranch
  • to hunt or fish
  • to use for recreational activities other than hunting or fishing
  • to produce sawlogs, pulpwood, or other timber products
  • to produce firewood or biofuel
  • to cultivate or collect nontimber forest products, such as mushrooms or berries

Spend some time thinking about your objectives. Write them down on paper. Compare notes with members of your family. Once you have taken these actions, consider consulting a professional forester about how you can achieve your goals. A professional forester can help you by writing a forest management or stewardship plan. This plan will describe the resources you have on your land and how those resources can be utilized to accomplish your objectives.

For More Information

Creating Forest Management Plans

National Woodland Owners’ Survey


Greg Frey, Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist, Virginia State University


Butler, Brett J. 2008. Family Forest Owners of the United States, 2006. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-27. Newtown Square, PA: US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 72 p