Over 57% of Wisconsin forests are owned by families, rather than public entities (federal, state, counties), tribes, and industry. This amounts to somewhere around 270,000 family woodlots in the state. The unfortunate part of this story is that only about 10% of landowners have a written management plan for their forests. Management plans are important decision-making tools in the long list of decisions that will need to be made from selling timber for money or improving forest health to preparing for passing land on to the next generation. The good news is that there is help available for family forest owners including websites, people, and programs.
There are several Wisconsin based websites that can answer basic questions a landowner might have. One portal for several of these websites is http://woodlandinfo.org , sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Extension. Check out the numerous publications on the site which can help landowners identify trees or find a sample timber sale contract. There are also testimonials from landowners that provide insights into how they work in their forest to meet their goals. Through this website there is a link to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources webpage for private woodland owners. This is a great place to find a DNR forester or a consulting forester.
DNR foresters are available to assist landowners with any questions one might have regarding their forest. This is a great place to figure out what kind of plan fits with a landowner’s goals for their land. A DNR forester can either assist with a plan or refer a landowner to a consulting forester. Consulting foresters are hired to work strictly for the landowner. Training and experience varies among consulting foresters, so it is wise to get references before hiring one. Again a list of consulting foresters can be found on the WDNR website, and additionally on the Wisconsin Consulting Foresters website at http://www.wi-consultingforesters.com/find.htm .
Another resource for landowners in this part of the state is the Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association (WWOA). They are a statewide resource, but have local chapters to facilitate more landowner interaction. Their events provide opportunities to learn what others are doing on their own woodlots, and get advice on foresters and loggers. They can be found on the internet at http://www.wisconsinwoodlands.org/ .
To learn more about a woodlot, check out a series of woodland owner classes that will be held in several locations around the state this winter and spring. To find out more about dates and locations for the Learn About Your Land series, go to https://erctest.cals.wisc.edu/woodlandinfo/ and click on Learn About Your Land.