By Troy Holcomb, Cooperative Forest Management Program Forester, Division of Forestry, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
At the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources DNR Division of Forestry offices we get a lot of calls from landowners who are both concerned and interested in learning more about and taking care of their woods. We really like this opportunity to interact with people who care about the responsible use and management of our environment.
Family forests make up 40 percent of the forests in Minnesota. They play a big part in helping to maintain the environmental and economic health of our state. Private forests provide clean air, wildlife habitat, clean water, and supply forest products for our vital forest products industry. Because of this, the DNR is very interested in helping woodland owners improve the health, quality and productivity of their woods.
There are literally hundreds of different actions—or "projects"—you can do to improve and enjoy your property. Many of these projects are eligible for cost-share funding, such as planting native trees and shrubs to improve habitat for wildlife watching and hunting. Funds and assistance are also available to help protect those trees from deer browse, and competing vegetation. Maybe you already have well-established woods. A common activity covered by cost-share is to thin (selectively remove crowded trees) to improve the growth and health of the remaining trees. Funding is also available to help reduce soil erosion into waterways.
In all cases, you would work closely with a professional forester to develop a project plan to meet your specific goals. The project plan lays out what needs to be done and what funding or assistance you will receive. It also identifies what work or contributions you will make to the effort. After the work is completed and approved, you receive payment from the DNR based on the type of work that was done.
Also available this year is a $300 reimbursement toward having a new Woodland Stewardship Plan created for your property. Woodland Stewardship Plans are a great first step for the uninitiated, or a good refresher for the longtime landowner. Woodland Stewardship Plans are created by a professional forester, together with you the landowner. Unlike the "project plan" that outlines a specific action or project on your land, a Woodland Stewardship Plan is a comprehensive overview of all the resources and features of your property. Using the goals you have for your property, the forester will outline recommendations to help you accomplish them. Woodland stewardship plans are written for properties of 20 acres or more.
Additionally, having a current Woodland Stewardship Plan allows you to take advantage of tax incentive programs for 2018 and beyond.
Using DNR cost-share funds and project assistance is a great way to help you practice good forest stewardship on your land. Funds are available on a first-come, first-served basis and are available until they run out. Feel free to stop in or call the local cooperative forest management foresters with questions or to get started. You can also visit the Cost-share for Woodland Owners webpage.