Congress created the Forest Stewardship Program in 1990 to assist private forest landowners to more actively manage their forest and related resources; to keep these lands in a productive and healthy condition for present and future owners; and to increase the economic and environmental benefits of these lands. The USDA Forest Service administers the program through the Resource Conservation & Forestry Division.
Forest stewardship starts with landowners who care about their forestlands. They view their land as a source of enjoyment, a chance to leave something special for future generations as well as a potential source of income. They may need technical and financial assistance to make their vision a reality.
Eligible lands include those owned by any private individual, group association, corporation, Indian tribe or other private legal entity. Further, it includes rural lands with existing tree cover, or suitable for growing trees. Participation by landowners is voluntary.
Landowner Forest Stewardship Plan
The backbone of the Forest Stewardship Program is the development of a comprehensive forest stewardship plan for the forest landowner. This plan will assess the limitations and potentials of the forest ownership and recommend actions for the landowners to accomplish their objectives without jeopardizing private property rights.
Resource Conservation & Forestry service professionals prepare these plans free of charge. Landowners have the option of hiring a consulting forester, or having some other resource professional prepare the plan. Plans must be approved by Resource Conservation & Forestry personnel to participate in the program. Cost-share assistance is available to landowners who choose to hire someone to write their forest stewardship plan.
Forest stewardship plans are not necessarily limited to forests in the Black Hills area. They are often written as part of a conservation plan for farms and ranches. The forest stewardship plan can offer a comprehensive look at the tree resources that serve as field, livestock and farmstead windbreaks, living barns, living snow fences and wildlife plantings. Accurate design, planting and maintenance are critical to the survival and success of tree plantings on the prairie.
The division also provides the technical assistance needed to implement practices identified in the forest stewardship plan. Often these practices require technical designs so that they are implemented properly and can accomplish the landowner’s objectives. Division personnel also provide program information to landowners interested in seeking cost-share to complete practices.
Landowners who have a forest stewardship plan prepared and complete at least one practice recommended in the plan are eligible to be recognized as forest stewards. Recognition comes in the form of a Stewardship Forest sign that the landowner can proudly display at the entrance to his/her property, a certificate and a letter of congratulations from the State Forester.
How Do I Obtain Help?
Contact your local Resource Conservation & Forestry office to obtain more information about the Forest Stewardship Program and its benefits.