Where to Start

You have a general idea of what is on your property (a small creek, a field, a woodlot, etc…) and what it is that you like, value, and how you currently use your property. Moving from that general appreciation and understanding to making improvements to your land isn’t always straightforward. The first step is narrowing down your priorities; below are some questions to help you do that.

1. Priorities

a. Do you like to use your property for recreation?

i. What type of recreation activities?
ii. Do you utilize all of your property to recreate, or what part?

b. Do you consider a particular resource extracted from your land to be valuable?

i. Selling timber?
ii. Firewood?
iii. Maple Syrup?
iv. Hay?
v. Irrigation?
vi. Other?
vii. Agriculture?
viii. Biomass for energy production?
ix. Hunting/trapping
x. Others?

c. Is having and protecting wildlife important?

i. Are you interested in one group of animals more than another?
1. Game (deer, waterfowl, turkey, etc.) or non-game (songbirds, reptiles, amphibians, etc.
2. Forest wildlife, wetland wildlife, or grassland wildlife?
ii. Are you interested in providing habitat?
d. Is conserving and improving biological diversity important?
e. Do you have a view or a scenic quality that is valuable?
f. Do you have water resources that you would like to protect?
g. Would you like to restore native plant and animal communities?

Go ahead and make a ranking of your priorities, we are often limited by resources or at least time and need to know where to start! (Note: your priorities can and may have to be adjusted later on when you have more data and learn what really is on your property). The next step is gathering more data.

2. Gather Data

a. Where are certain features or priorities located? Get a map of your property and mark them out.

i. Where is the field for the hay production, where is the field that can be left fallow? Or should that field be converted to a prairie or is that the open area where you want to let go through (and guide) natural succession?
ii. How diverse is your woodlot? Does it have some areas of old growth? Are there different forest communities within your forest?
iii. What plant species and animal species inhabit or use your land? Where? What part? Where are the crucial features or communities that house, feed, or water the animals you are interested in?
iv. Are there rare or sensitive species on your property? Where? How many? What is their status? Are they threatened by alien plants or natural succession?
v. What is missing from your property that the animal you’d like to hunt needs? Is it there but just needs to be restored or managed to better health and status?
vi. Where do you want to expand, where do you see future development? Where’s the garden going or a future guest house? Don’t forget about the important view that you may want to keep clear.

b. Other information may be helpful:

i. Soil information
ii. Elevation
iii. Know what is “upstream” or in other words, the surrounding habitat (your neighbor’s land).

c. This is where hiring a biological consultant can be helpful and Rate My Land can help you connect with them. Hiring a consultant can help you collect data that you may not have the training to collect and with this extra data, they can enhance what can be accomplished.

3. Develop Management Plan

a. Refine priorities

i. Are there conflicts?
ii. Was there a new resource identified that you’d like to protect or develop?

b. Set goals and targets

i. When is the best time to take action?
1. i.e. trimming or damaging Oak trees in the growing season encourages Oak Wilt (a damaging fungus that kills Oak trees) so you’ll want to plan for cuttings in the winter.
2. i.e. Haying can be timed to decrease disturbance to ground nesting birds
ii. What resources will you need?
1. What professionals can assist you?
2. Tools?
3. Estimated costs?
4. Is this a one-time event (i.e. planting a tree)? Will it require upkeep (i.e. deer fence or watering the tree while it is young)?

c. Define management areas

i. Putting your land in sections provides an organizational structure
1. Provides boundaries for certain management actions and
2. Facilitates scheduling and timing for actions (estimating how long, etc.)
ii. Enables better communication with others about what you want done
iii. Helps you track progress and evaluate conservation measures or management actions

d. A management plan can be useful when trying to make decisions in the future by seeing what has been done, where it has been done, and refreshing or reevaluating goals

e. Biological consultants often have experience with management plans and can help

Have your Plan? Head back to the Land Management page to find some advice how to accomplish your plan or connect with a consultant by clicking below.