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Author Topic: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?  (Read 605 times)

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Offline Manifestdestiny

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Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« on: November 23, 2022, 01:40:01 AM »
Greetings! First time poster here and not really a long time reader. Without going too far into details, I'm a 30 year old who has recently reconnected with a relative and will eventually (maybe 30 years) be inheriting about 15 acres of forest. There's not a big plan or much of a plan in place at all besides a rough ambition to make some money selling trees.

Thus far the goal of my father, who owns the land, is to clear a space for a yard and a home, and some other extraneous projects. He knows to some degree that he wants to sell wood but his focus since purchasing the land a year or so ago has been primarily related to non forestry stuff. He's already cleared a sizable area and has a yard growing and a pad for the house, as well as water and electric.

Since arriving I've spent significant time thinning some areas where there will be recreational type activities. Eventually, I handled that stuff and I'm now at the point where I'm realizing the hard truth: I have no clue what I'm doing.

I'm super excited about the concept of stewardship and don't have many clear goals. As stated previously, there's an ambition to sell some logs here. That said, the more I try to casually assist my Father in that regard, the more realize its a pretty serious undertaking in the event that he wants to maximize both profit and growth.

I have a forester coming out tomorrow. I'm hoping he can give me some rules of thumb to follow when thinning so as not to accidentally destroy profit or save worthless things.

Of course, I'm also interested in beautification and recreation. There's a small pond here that I'd like to see grow. There's also many animals in the land as evidenced by a trail cam.

Basically, I'm seeking guidance on how to seek guidance. In the event that I was able to dedicate 100% of my free time to this stuff, what would be the best way for someone who doesn't want to shell out a ton of cash to master this forest?

Side question: what, if any, is the benefit to some of the numerous certification type programs that exist out there? Ie Stewardship or Conservation programs/agreements on a state or federal level, in which I agree to adhere to some set of standards and in return get a fancy sign or plaque to hang on the front gate.

Thanks for reading this lengthy post, I'm looking forward to replies.

Offline Ianab

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2022, 02:54:49 AM »
Welcome and it's good you are looking for knowledge and long term forest management.  :)

I guess the first thing is to work out what YOU are managing for. Financial (logging returns) vs Wildlife / Hunting vs Conservation vs Aesthetics. All are valid management criteria, and can overlap. But what you want to achieve alters how you manage the land.  So there are different strategies, from "do nothing" through to "clear cut and start again" and all the combinations in between. 15 acres isn't a big forest, but if you have something to start with now, it could have some decent trees in another 30 years. 

Unfortunately management varies depending on your area and forest type. What I can tell you about regenerating a patch of temperate NZ rainforest won't apply to your patch of Nth America. 

But a local forester will have a better idea, but again, you need to ask the right questions. Also, while being a "real" Forester is a university degree, (because there IS a lot to learn). The info is generally available in books and online. You can learn about all the different trees you have, and things like forest succession (how a forest changes over time). Wont make you a professional forester, but gives you enough knowledge to keep up with that they are telling you, and make sensible decisions about your management. What to cut, what to leave etc. 
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Offline twar

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #2 on: November 23, 2022, 03:33:22 AM »
I agree to adhere to some set of standards and in return get a fancy sign or plaque to hang on the front gate.


You may get more than just a fancy sign. Depending on where you are, you may be able to reduce your property tax as well, if you can show that you are actually managing your land for timber/wildlife etc.

Offline peakbagger

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2022, 06:11:14 AM »
You do not say where you are but that makes a big difference. In the US there may be state or county resources that are low or no cost to help you. They are paid to help small landowners. Be very careful on who you get advice from. Many folks represent themselves as "foresters" who may be willing to work "for free" but if you are not paying them, someone else is and the advice may be good for them but not for you. In my area,, NH, there are major tax incentives to keep land in forest production called current use designation. With such a small lot, it would be easy to screw up and not be able to get current use incentives.

If your land is typical its been cut a few times in the past and most likely been high graded. High grading is take the best and leave the rest which ultimately leaves a lot of trash and undesirable trees that are just taking up space. Your job for the next 30 years is figure what the land is good for growing and then taking out the trash to let the good stuff grow. Hopefully you have a use for firewood as you are going to making a lot of it. The reality is that 15 acres with a house on it is just a "hobby" lot, its not going to be worth much as timberland so you had better like working in the woods. Luckily you tome span is pretty good as putting management in place no are going to make a big difference 30 years out.

Offline thecfarm

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2022, 06:46:37 AM »
Of course, I'm also interested in beautification and recreation. There's a small pond here that I'd like to see grow. There's also many animals in the land as evidenced by a trail cam.

 
Just telling us what state, if from the US, would help out some. Things are different in ME than CA.
But sounds like you want to work the land. That is good.
I do it almost every day. I like it!!!
Welcome to the forum.
I just went to your profile and looked to see why you joined and saw where you are from.
Model 6020-20hp Manual Thomas bandsaw,TC40A 4wd 40 hp New Holland tractor, 450 Norse Winch, Heatmor 400 OWB,YCC 1978-79

Offline aigheadish

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2022, 08:48:51 AM »
Welcome to your new obsession, should you choose it to be. The amount of info here, knowledgeable and helpful people, and resources on forestry are insane and neat. I'm new to it all as well and mostly here to learn as I can't apply a lot of the info on my small 6 acres made of mostly dead ash trees. I do consider the things I learn as I thin out or add new trees, and there's a ton of other good spots on the forums to learn about all kinds of stuff. Good luck in your endeavor and I look forward to reading more of your adventures! Let's see some pictures of the land! 
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Offline Manifestdestiny

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2022, 09:06:48 AM »
Welcome and it's good you are looking for knowledge and long term forest management.  :)

I guess the first thing is to work out what YOU are managing for. Financial (logging returns) vs Wildlife / Hunting vs Conservation vs Aesthetics. All are valid management criteria, and can overlap. But what you want to achieve alters how you manage the land.  So there are different strategies, from "do nothing" through to "clear cut and start again" and all the combinations in between. 15 acres isn't a big forest, but if you have something to start with now, it could have some decent trees in another 30 years.

But a local forester will have a better idea, but again, you need to ask the right questions. Also, while being a "real" Forester is a university degree, (because there IS a lot to learn). The info is generally available in books and online. You can learn about all the different trees you have, and things like forest succession (how a forest changes over time). Wont make you a professional forester, but gives you enough knowledge to keep up with that they are telling you, and make sensible decisions about your management. What to cut, what to leave etc.
I'm in the very Northeast most part of Texas. I tried yesterday to do some identification and found that even that was a challenge. That said, I know for sure I have several types of Oak, some Pines, Sweetgum.

I'm not exactly sure of what my goals are. Ideally, I'd find a way to make a living out of this 15 acres. 15 isn't a lot but besides just selling the logs, there's a lot (potentially) that could be done here from a crafting perspective. I can tell you for certain that what I don't want to do, is cut down good trees, which I feel I've probably done to some degree already.

Do you have any recommended resources for a high level overview of concepts involved in forestry? Or even some type of comprehensive course? I searched briefly in this regard but didn't have a lot of success.

I agree to adhere to some set of standards and in return get a fancy sign or plaque to hang on the front gate.


You may get more than just a fancy sign. Depending on where you are, you may be able to reduce your property tax as well, if you can show that you are actually managing your land for timber/wildlife etc.

Of the ones I've discovered thus far, it doesn't seem that there's a tax incentive, or if there is it wasn't clearly noted on any of the pages.

Are you aware of any off the top of your head for NE Texas that offer some benefit in that regard? I don't mind cool plaques and signage for the record, but it's not technically my land yet so ultimately if the process is too involved it might not be something my Father is interested in. That said, if there's a tax benefit he's probably going to be more receptive.

Of course, I'm also interested in beautification and recreation. There's a small pond here that I'd like to see grow. There's also many animals in the land as evidenced by a trail cam.

 
Just telling us what state, if from the US, would help out some. Things are different in ME than CA.
But sounds like you want to work the land. That is good.
I do it almost every day. I like it!!!
Welcome to the forum.
I just went to your profile and looked to see why you joined and saw where you are from.
NE Texas, thanks for the welcome.

You do not say where you are but that makes a big difference. In the US there may be state or county resources that are low or no cost to help you. They are paid to help small landowners. Be very careful on who you get advice from. Many folks represent themselves as "foresters" who may be willing to work "for free" but if you are not paying them, someone else is and the advice may be good for them but not for you. In my area,, NH, there are major tax incentives to keep land in forest production called current use designation. With such a small lot, it would be easy to screw up and not be able to get current use incentives.

If your land is typical its been cut a few times in the past and most likely been high graded. High grading is take the best and leave the rest which ultimately leaves a lot of trash and undesirable trees that are just taking up space. Your job for the next 30 years is figure what the land is good for growing and then taking out the trash to let the good stuff grow. Hopefully you have a use for firewood as you are going to making a lot of it. The reality is that 15 acres with a house on it is just a "hobby" lot, its not going to be worth much as timberland so you had better like working in the woods. Luckily you tome span is pretty good as putting management in place no are going to make a big difference 30 years out.
Yeah I've experienced all types of confusing advice, basically from every source haha. Be it local help, Google, etc. My hope is to get all the experts I can checking the place out and synthesize my own opinion. There's a 100% true blue forester coming out today, I've also got a wildlife biologist coming out next week.

As far as 30 years out, I have no intention of selling the property. Ideally, I'd find a way to generate enough profit from it to either do it full time, or at least have it pay for itself. Timbering is one option but it's been made clear to me by the few people I've talked to that it's not likely to be profitable or worth the effort for any commercial operation at 15 acres. To that end, there's a goal here to maybe get some milling equipment but, even then I realize there's much more at play than just cutting down big trees.

Thanks for all the replies.

Offline twar

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #7 on: November 23, 2022, 11:02:43 AM »
Of the ones I've discovered thus far, it doesn't seem that there's a tax incentive, or if there is it wasn't clearly noted on any of the pages. Are you aware of any off the top of your head for NE Texas that offer some benefit in that regard?


I'm not from Texas, but I am good at Googling. ("Do you really know the answer, or do you google-know it?" is what my daughter asks. :D)

Take a look at texaslandcan-DOT-org for a start.

Offline KEC

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2022, 06:06:10 PM »
I think that every state has a forestry department that you should consult with. As others said, 15 acres is not going to provide you with a livelyhood, though you're on the right track seeking guidance. Good Luck!

Offline Ron Scott

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #9 on: November 25, 2022, 04:09:19 PM »
Work with a "certified" Local Professional Consulting Forester or a State provided Service Forester to prepare a Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan to meet your management objectives for the property.

~Ron

Offline Texas Ranger

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Re: Attempting to steward ~15 acres of forest, where do I start?
« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2022, 09:13:49 PM »
Texas is ad valorem tax country, tax by property value.  Around here you get a greatly reduced tax burden if you manage the land.  In my county (SE Texas) it requires a minimum of 10 acres of land, next county over requires 20 acres.   Check with the tax appraisal office and pick up the guidelines. A management plan is mandatory, but can be written by anyone, though you will be better off if written by a forester
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The Ranger, home of Texas Forestry


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