THE THREE Ps
by Richard Meaux, President
SW LA Forestry Association
Proper Prior Planning (PPP) is something that everyone should do. Many of us have, and those who have not should, put together various papers and documents that plan for the future and that are prepared to ensure that our wishes are at least known so, hopefully, they can be carried out. Some things are legal such as wills and others simply lay out what we think should happen with the assets we accumulate over a lifetime. This is particularly important as one grows older or if one has some health related condition(s), however, prudently, it is something to be considered at any time at any age.
For a landowner this is especially important. Many have spent a lifetime planting, nurturing and harvesting timber from their property and it would be comforting to know that family members are interested in continuing that work and are prepared to manage the tracts should the need arise. Over the past few years our association has hosted workshops designed to help landowners get their families interested and involved in developing legacy forests. In these cases the land is ready to be passed on to later generations and the hard work already done to develop a productive piece of property is not lost.
In society today much is focused on the “Green Movement”. Pressure has been put on all segments of the timber industry from growth to harvest to marketing in an attempt to make sure that the wood products are not harmful to the earth and environment at any stage. This, of course, is what most of us have been doing for years. A timberland owner is usually a natural born conservationist and not one who would manage their land in an abusive way. We burn, plant, fertilize, thin and insist that harvests are done using Best Management Practices (BMP) confirming that we are good stewards of the land. Be that as it may, it is becoming increasingly important that we not only say that we are doing things correctly but we have to prove it as well. We do that by managing our timber in conformance with guidelines set forth by organizations such as the Tree Farm System or other Sustainable Forest Initiatives.
Considering all that has been said above, it should be obvious that one thing we need to do is plan what were are going to do with our forest, that we put those plans down on paper and that we make that information available to those who need to know. A proper plan is necessary if our family is called upon to manage the land and one is needed if anyone plans to certify their timber under the programs listed above. Fortunately, there is a format already in place that guides us in preparing just such a document. That document is called a Forest Management Plan (FMP).
Elements of such a plan would include such items as objectives, property history and location, maintenance plans, list of resources, inventory of trees and management activities planned for the future. The plan would have both general, long term (10 year) goals and an outline of specific activities to be performed in the short term. More explanation and details are available from the County Agent or Extension Forester as well as the internet. Go to any search engine online and type in “Forest Management Plan” for a start. The Tree Farm System website has good details and the much other useful information is provided by the Louisiana Forestry Association on their website.
A plan can be developed by an individual, but a more complete and detailed plan would be prepared by a professional forester. The County Agent or Extension Forester could provide names of those qualified and possibly even recommendations on how to fund the development of such a document. Though it changes from time to time the Farm Service Agency (FSA) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have provided support in the past under some of their programs.
It is good to plan ahead and there is no time better to start than right now. Make sure your hopes and dreams for your timber and your land are carried to fruition.