Forest Legacy, Reimagined; you may question what it is and what it means. Better yet, you may wonder how you can achieve Forest Legacy, Reimagined on your land, and take your management to the next level. As a landowner and a forester, I wondered that as well. The Forestry Project was founded to help landowners learn how to manage their forestland better. Forest Legacy, Reimagined was born out of my obsession with learning the why's of land management, not just the how. Once we understand the why of what we are performing and how we implement it becomes much easier to figure out.
Even though many landowners value the legacy of their land, you may need to realize what you are passing down is much more than the dirt and trees. More importantly, we should focus on passing down the knowledge of being connected to the land and reading the land to understand how to manage it best and achieve Forest Legacy, Reimagined. First, we must define forest legacy and what we mean by adding reimagined - then look at techniques to begin learning from our land and defining how we manage it. Lastly, it is essential to consider how to get on the path to better management and what to expect while achieving Forest Legacy, Reimagined.
What is Forest Legacy, and Why Reimagined
The 4 W's of Understanding Land Management
How to Acheive Forest Legacy, Reimagined
What is Forest Legacy, and Why Reimagined
As forest landowners, we want to pass down our land to the next generation better than we found it. However, what is forest legacy, and are you doing enough by just improving the land?
When landowners think about why they own their land, typically, they respond that protecting or improving the land and resources and family legacy, among other aspects, are important reasons they own forestland (Butler et al., 2021). I would respond similarly to what is important about owning land and why I have started managing my forestland, improving it, and passing it down. When we look at forest legacy, we define it as the interest in passing land down and keeping it within family ownership, often children or grandchildren. The legacy aspect of owning land significantly impacts those receiving the land. My parents inherited land from my grandparents, then I from them, which has impacted how I manage and think about our land because I inherited it.
When landowners think about why they own their land, the influence of forest legacy can be both good and bad. Part of owning land for forest legacy drives me to manage it better. The other side of it, however, is I am hesitant to do management activities that are needed because it is my parent's land and trees and my grandparent's land and trees. This internal struggle and a passion for learning and educating inspired me to closely consider the motivations of forest landowners, looking at why they want to pass land down and what they are actively trying to do.
While little, if any, research is on this, I argue that part of the reason for landowners being interested in the legacy of their land is more about memories than dirt and trees; at least, it is for me. Don't get me wrong, the trees are important, but what forest legacy is to me is all of the fun times that I have had on our property with friends and family. Within forest legacy, it is still important to pass down better land for the next generation; after all, that is one of the reasons I became a forester; it is much more important to pass down the "why" of land management. To pass down the why's of land management, we first need to define the why of our management activities. This is where our slogan, Forest Legacy, Reimagined, originates from. It is not just managing land to pass down but genuinely learning the land and how to manage it better so that we can not only pass down better forestland but inspire the next generation to manage it even better.
Forest Legacy, Reimagined is a process of life-long learning and management practice. I do not expect you to know everything when you begin; I didn't before I started my forestry education, and I still don't know after pursuing it full-time for almost six years. I have noticed throughout my education that there is unlimited information about managing forests, and I would find myself going down many rabbit holes chasing bits of knowledge. That is why I have developed a set of easy steps called the 4 W's for landowners to organize their thoughts, determine what they know, and identify what they could learn more about for the management activities they are interested in.
The 4 W's of Understanding Land Management
The 4 W's huh, that's all it takes?
When trying to learn information, it is essential to develop a good base of understanding about that topic that you can build off as you learn more. One way that helps me retain information is to practice what I am learning as I learn. For landowners to adopt this technique, they first need to understand what they are trying to accomplish, where they are trying to accomplish it, when they should accomplish it, and why they are trying to accomplish it. Let's go through each step and look at an example I hope to implement on my land in the coming months.
1. What? The what refers to the management activity or what it is being done to. This step is often a very broad description and might need more specifics relating to the activity, which we will add next. It is normal and encouraged to begin thinking about something broadly to get a general understanding of the topic.
Example: I have wanted to conduct prescribed fires on my property for years. I have
seen or heard of the benefits of prescribed fire and would like to learn more. In this
example, the what would be prescribed fire.
2. Where? In the example above, I state that I want to have described fire on my land. While that is the beginning description of where we need to be more specific about the site to learn much from it. When you are thinking about where, some of the things to consider how big is the area, is the area wet or dry, what is the topography, what species are present, what is the past use and management, and what is the larger surrounding area?
Acreage may impact what you can do, but it can also give you the ability to have a realistic timeline. How wet a site is can impact almost everything during management, such as what species will grow, what management activities will work, what kind of machinery you could get in to do it, etc. Similarly, topography can help decide what you can do; for example, fire travels faster uphill than it does on flat ground, or if you have too steep of a slope, it might be challenging to get loggers to harvest the trees. The species on site give you much information about what has occurred there. It is also essential to consider where you want to plant trees to determine the most suitable species. Historical land use and management are essential to know and can impact what management you can implement or how you should implement it. What is nearby is also important because it can be crucial when considering the impacts of management and ways to mitigate risk.
Example: I decided I wanted to burn, I have looked, and on my property, we have a half-
acre pond surrounded by a grassy field that used to be a home site. The home was
removed, and the grasses have since been overtaken by broom sedge. It is primarily a
dryer site, except for the areas around the pond's banks. The shape of the area is
triangular, with one side being the pond, another side being a gravel road and woods,
and the last side being wooded. Multiple landowners' properties and residential houses
are on the other side of those boundaries.
3. When? As you can see, our example is becoming more detailed and helping us understand what we need to learn about. The next step is understanding when we will do the management activity, which can be determined in a few different ways. You may be a landowner who doesn't get to spend much time managing your land, and you need to look at what management is good when you are out there. Or you may have a specific management need that is best done at a certain time of the year. The time of the year is vital to consider for most management. Fires behave differently during different times of the year and accomplish different objectives. Planting trees are better in the dormant season than in the dead of summer. You want to spray herbicide when plants are taking nutrients in, etc. The list goes on and on about how time is important, but that post would be way too long to list them all.
Example: I decided I wanted to burn; I have determined that I will be burning grasses, a
mix of an upland site with a wet site near the pond. I have looked at what is nearby and
identified what I need to consider to mitigate risk. I have researched how to burn grasses
and learned that they burn quickly. So I looked at resources I would have and
determined when would be best and that I would like to burn during the dormant spring
season so that it is not as hot of a burn and I could manage it easier.
4. Why? Notice how, as we define the What, When, and Where, we are also beginning to explain the why. However, we should not stop at this simple explanation and instead take the opportunity to learn more about the environmental interaction we are trying to affect. Each activity you perform should benefit the environment you are managing, and as managers, we need to understand the impact we are having. Let's look back at the burning example and figure out my burn goals so I can better explain why I am burning.
Example: I decided to burn, looked at what I wanted to burn, where I wanted to burn,
and when seemed best to burn. I have the basis for what I need to do, but if I stop there,
I will not be able to explain why I am burning or the benefit it is having. There is a lot of
sage grass and different species of yard grass at the pond because it had been a
residential area for many years. Once the trailer was moved off, we let the area grow up
to where it was not aesthetically pleasing to go to the pond. So we are implementing a
burn plan for a few different reasons. The pond is next to the road and is the first part of
the property we see driving up, so we want it to look good. We also don't want it to grow
wildly with trees and would rather have grasses over there so that it is easier to walk
around. However, the grasses that are over there currently do not hold much wildlife
value, so we would like to get more native vegetation that will attract and hold pollinators
as well as provide nourishment for wildlife. I also was to showcase native plants, and this
would be a great education area for both in-person and video content.
How to Achieve Forest Legacy, Reimagined
As you read, we were able to take a very simple statement and figured out what we needed to learn to manage our land more effectively and explain to others the positive benefits of what we were doing.
If you are reading this and are overwhelmed by the amount of information you need to learn, that is fine. Please don't be discouraged by not knowing everything at the beginning; we should always be learning when we are out in nature. Learning takes time, and we need to focus on a piece at a time, don't try to tackle all of your projects, get burnt out, and then not do anything. Instead, my call to action is to decide on one activity you want to learn about and do and then focus on it until you can go through the 4 W's and truly understand it. You may want to plant some trees, so your goal is to learn what trees were native to the area that you can plant back with the impact you want. It may be burning that you want to learn about, so you attend a Learn & Burn in your state to understand how to implement a prescribed fire safely. Regardless of what activity you want to do, there is always something new to learn about it that we, as managers and life-long learners, should desire to know.
If you need guidance, watch our videos on what The Forestry Project is doing to manage our land. Also, consider reaching out to a consulting forester to provide a management plan for your land. You might consider contacting your Cooperative Extension or State Natural Resource Personnel to learn how to manage your land or even get a management plan to guide you. Don't go and try to manage everything on your own and learn from your mistakes; there are resources that you can learn from the many mistakes that others have made that you can improve. Still, learn your land, and always observe the environment you have the privilege to interact with and impact through your management.
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