If you are, the Michigan Legislature has funded a Forestry Assistance Program (FAP) through Conservation Districts (CDs) and administered by the Michigan Departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture and Rural Development. Among other things, the FAP currently funds 13 foresters that will serve 31 counties with the purpose of providing free on-site technical assistance.
The primary goal with these outreach efforts will consist of helping the private forest owner better understand and appreciate their forest resource. For both present and future sake, in order to keep all forests healthier, it is imperative that private forest owner perceive how their piece of property fits and functions within the larger surrounding landscape. Furthermore, the outreach efforts will help forest owner’s better plan, manage protect and utilize their forest resources. The bottom line is, we (society) need more from our private forest resource.
We need private forest owners to be more informed about the decisions they make for their property before they set their plans in motion. In other words, we need them to be aware of all the potential options for management of the resources before they pull the trigger. Private forest owners that are more aware of the choices and options available to them tend to be more active stewards of their property. When this happens, we all benefit from better quality wildlife habitat and populations; cleaner water and air; better recreational opportunities; and healthier forests that continually contribute products that supply the needs of our homes, schools and businesses.
We’ve reached a point in time, where if we are to have any chance at all in the battle to keep all of our forests, across all ownership categories, healthy and productive, we’re going to need the private forest owner to take a more active role. The current trend with the invasion of exotic insects, diseases and plants threatens to change our forest landscape forever. Many of these changes won’t be for the better. Additionally, some of the best wildlife habitat and potential wildlife habitat enhancement opportunities occur on our private lands. These lands also include the home or remnants of, the last remaining habitats to many rare and endangered species. Furthermore, some of the most productive forest lands in the nation are found right here in Michigan. The majority of them are owned by private individuals.
Studies have shown that only a small percentage of private forest owners have received any professional assistance, whether governmental or from the private sector prior to engaging in activities such as timber harvesting on their property. The most optimistic reports place this figure around 20%. In other words, one could conclude that 4 out of every 5 private forest owners are doing nothing or they’re making decisions for their property potentially unaware of the full impact of their decisions.
Managing our forest resource isn’t as simple as some people like to make it out to be. Every decision you make for your property, including doing nothing, has consequences or trade-offs. Where most people are vulnerable in making decisions for their property, is not taking the time to understand the full complexity of forest management activities. Spur of the moment decisions of any kind will always be a bit of a gamble.
The best product we can produce from our private forest resource, both for the present and the future, is an informed decision maker. Take the time to become more informed about the management options for your property by visiting your local Conservation District office.
More FAP information can be found by visiting www.michigan.gov/forestryassistanceprogram. In addition to this site, most Conservation Districts with foresters now have a forestry page in their websites.