STEWARDSHIP PLANNING AND ASSESSMENTS:
A forest assessment provides a summary report of a property’s forests.
Field data collected for the assessment provides information on species composition, age class, diameter distribution, growth rates, forest structure, forest health, and wildlife habitat for each stand type on the property.
The written assessment includes photographs, a detailed description, and potential management options for each forest stand type. The assessment also includes summary data for the entire property detailing major concerns, highlights, and opportunities.
Forest Inventory and Appraisal
A forest inventory provides a report of typical numerical forestry values (boardfeet, basal area, and trees per acre) by species for different forest stands. The measured components, intensity, and scope of the inventory are variable depending on the landowner’s needs.
A timber appraisal provides the total value of the timber on a given piece of property. This estimate is arrived at through a thorough forest inventory and the use of up to date timber prices. Knowing the full value of timber on a property can assist a landowner in stewardship planning and/or financial planning.
Forest Management and Conservation Plan
Forest stewardship planning includes a forest assessment, as described above, but incorporates specific landowner objectives with the assessment to define stewardship goals and actions. The plan usually covers a 5 to 10-year time frame. Properties whose stewardship plans include commercial timber management as an objective can also qualify for significant property tax savings through North Carolina’s Present Use Valuation program.
Conservation planning includes a forest assessment and determining landowner objectives. The conservation plan differs from a forest stewardship plan in that it does not necessarily include forest management as a priority. Instead, the conservation plan can include identifying biologically sensitive areas for protection and ideal locations to site roads, trails, and/or home sites.
While many landowners have specific financial income needs that sustainable forestry practices may provide for, the strategic harvesting of trees frequently also serves the non-income related objectives of landowners.
For example, many of our forests are even-aged as a result of past clear-cutting. If a landowner desires to restore their even-aged forest to diversity and habitat that simulates old growth conditions, then it is frequently advantageous to mimic natural disturbance patterns that create gaps in the forest. The strategic creation of gaps can favor the growth of more healthy and dominant trees, increase overall botanical diversity, and increase habitat for numerous wildlife species that depend on the structural variability of a forest that has multiple sizes and ages of trees.
During any timber sale, we work on behalf of the interests of the landowner by receiving the highest possible price for the timber while achieving the greatest potential for the landowner’s stewardship objectives. Before any timber harvesting takes place, we mark every tree that is to be removed and establish a harvest plan so that both the logger and the landowner understand the means by which stewardship objectives will be achieved.
Forest Stewards has developed relationships with a set of loggers that are both trustworthy and capable when it comes to low-impact logging that protects residual trees, water quality, and other forest resources. Before any management activities take place, we will represent the landowner in establishing a contract that states the terms of payment and how a logger is to engage in stewardship activities (i.e. how trees are to be removed, how trails are to be constructed etc.). Subsequent to this agreement, we will oversee the terms of this contract and withhold a performance bond from the logger until work is satisfactorily completed.
Forest restoration is a broad category of forest management by which a landowner seeks to restore forest health and vitality which has been compromised by past management abuses. While this work can sometimes be done in a manner that provides a profit to the landowner, restoration work often comes at a cost.
The cost to the landowner is a result of the need to remove lower quality and less healthy trees in favor of improving the health and vitality of larger and more dominant trees. As previously described of a timber sale, FS will mark trees to be removed and oversee logging operations to achieve the greatest potential for the landowner’s stewardship objectives while minimizing the costs.
Wildlife Habitat Improvement
There are numerous means by which to enhance or create habitat for wildlife. Stewardship actions are dependent upon the landowner’s objectives, natural resources, and preferred wildlife species.
Invasive Species Control
More and more, undesirable species introduced from foreign lands are crowding out native species and even causing local extinctions. Forest Stewards provides the service of mapping where these species are, planning for their removal, and then actively removing the species.
Follow-up monitoring is almost always required to keep invasive species in check over time. The time and costs of this service is highly variable dependent upon the species and scope of infestation.
MAPPING AND ANALYSIS SERVICES:
High Quality GIS Mapping
Many of these services come with maps created in a GIS as part of the package. Some landowners are very interested in maps of their property and may desire additional maps of their trails, favorite wildlife areas, or even a map of their entire neighborhood.
Forest Structure Modeling
The implementation of new remote sensing technologies such as high-resolution multi-band imagery and LiDAR on a broad scale across the nation has many implications for land stewardship. Models can be designed to estimate tree heights, location of canopy gaps, density of understory, presence of rock outcrops, and even to detect old forest roads.
All of this can be done before ever visiting the property. Using this information assists in stewardship by yielding a general idea of the property’s conditions: increasing efficiency in the field and serving as a base of information to build from.
Spatial and Temporal Analyses
A few types of analyses provided include:
- Active forest disturbance monitoring. Using satellite data, before-and-after analyses can determine the location and estimate the date of disturbances such as blowdowns or insect/disease dieback. This service can also monitor general forest vigor to determine forest health trends.
- Viewshed analysis.This type of analysis determines the visibility of an area from an area of observation. Areas of observation can include overlooks, roads, mountain peaks, community centers, or any point of interest. Types of uses for this information include aiding in the decision making process for land acquisition.
- Variable Buffer Analysis. Buffers are widely used in both land management and conservation. Typically a fixed-width buffer is applied, but in many cases this type of buffer may not adequately protect the resources it is designed to. Variable width buffers take any number of factors into a model that can adjust the buffer distance intelligently. For instance, stream buffers that become wider as the stream bank slope increases and as soil permeability decreases and as stream flow volume increases.
CONSERVATION EASEMENT SERVICES:
Conservation Easement Planning
Some landowners wish to permanently protect and enhance the scenic, historic, agricultural, and natural resource values of a property by working with a local land trust to establish a conservation easement. Conservation easements also allow a landowner to take advantage of financial benefits through Federal and State tax deductions and credits.
For these landowners FS can provide expert advice on the benefits of conservation easements and the best means to go about planning to establish one. As a landowner moves into the conservation easement process, we are able to represent landowners in the dialogue with land trusts that would be the holders of the conservation easements.
Conservation Easement Monitoring
Most easements require monitoring of the property every few years to ensure the rules of the easement are being followed. Monitoring conservation easements will help ensure the land you saved yesterday remains protected tomorrow and beyond.
Conservation Easement Baseline Reports
Conservation organizations that hold conservation easements often need assistance in the development of these reports. The staff of FS has years of experience working for land trusts in this capacity. We provide high quality reports that detail the biological and physical characteristics of a property prior to a conservation easement and any changes that come thereafter.
Reports include high quality GIS maps with accurate property boundaries, aerial photography and topography in addition to digital photographs of prominent features of the property that correspond with specific coordinates and line of site directions.