Choosing a Forest Management Plan

There are a number of options available for forest management plans… some more comprehensive, some with a more singularly-focused purpose. Which plan is right for you depends upon your goals and objectives for your forestland. Here are brief descriptions of the various types of forest management plans.

Forest Stewardship Management Plans

A Forest Stewardship Management Plan serves as the foundation for connecting forest landowners with their forestland through a comprehensive plan that addresses individual landowner objectives for their entire property. This plan type is the most comprehensive and takes a holistic approach to forest management for a landowner’s entire property, and is highly recommended for landowners wishing to address all resource aspects of their land. Forest Stewardship Management Plans are optimal for landowners with multiple objectives and a desire to successfully manage their land for multiple purposes. These plans must adhere to National and State Forest Stewardship Management Plan guidelines. Forest Stewardship Management Plans developed by VDOF staff incur a nominal fee, which is dependent upon the size of the property.

Forest Stewardship Management Plan Criteria and Elements

Plan Criteria

All Forest Stewardship Management Plans must:

  • Be prepared or verified by a professional resource manager, and be approved by the State Forester or a representative of the State Forester.
  • Document authorship and landowner information, as well as contact information.
  • Include detailed location, plan and soils maps.
  • Clearly state landowner goals and objectives.
  • Describe current forest condition.
  • Describe desired forest condition.
  • Include practices and activities aimed at reaching the desired forest condition or condition class.
  • Include detailed recommendations and a timeline for practice  implementation.
  • Describe any suggested monitoring activities to be done by the forester or landowner.
  • Be developed for a specified management period that adequately allows for progress with the landowner’s long-term stewardship objectives.
  • Be reviewed, renewed, revised, or rewritten at the end of the specified management period or sooner as needed, to be considered current.

Plan Elements

The plan preparer will consider, describe, and evaluate plan elements and their importance to the ownership when they are present. Plan elements to be considered include:

  • Soil and water
  • Biological diversity
  • Agroforestry
  • Aesthetic quality and desired species
  • Recreation
  • Wood and fiber production
  • Fish and wildlife
  • Threatened and endangered species
  • Forest health and invasive species
  • Conservation-based estate planning / legacy planning information
  • Archeological, cultural, and historic sites
  • Wetlands
  • Fire
  • Carbon sequestration
  • Forests of Recognized Importance (FORI)

Additional Information

May include additional appendices, such as:

  • Descriptions of assistance available and financial incentive programs
  • Description of Conservation-based estate planning and a list of available resources
  • Educational materials
  • A glossary of terms
  • An explanation of applicable federal, state, and/or county regulatory programs, especially as they apply to: archeological, cultural, and historical sites; wetlands; and threatened and endangered species.

Landowners requesting a Forest Stewardship Management Plan must submit a signed Form 7.10 Forest Stewardship Program Application to the VDOF.

Forest Management Plans

Forest management plans create opportunities for landowners to meet their forestry objectives. These plans generally cover an entire ownership, but are less comprehensive than Forest Stewardship Management Plans. The primary focus of the plan is to provide forest management information and recommendations that will help the landowner with forest management decisions for their property.

Forest Management Plan Criteria

Plan Criteria

All Forest Management Plans should:

  • Be prepared by a professional forest resource manager.
  • Document authorship and landowner information, as well as contact information.
  • Include property identification and location information.
  • Clearly state landowner goals and objectives.
  • Describe detailed forest stand conditions.
  • Include detailed recommended practices.
  • Include a detailed map of the property.

Practice Plans

Practice Plans are management plans for a single stand or area of a tract, particular management concern, or landowner area of interest. These single-resource plans are valuable in addressing more immediate landowner needs and can be a first step to more comprehensive planning in the future. The plan can include small incidental areas (example Special Management Zones) that may be associated with the stand or area of interest. A Practice Plan is not generally developed for an entire tract unless the tract is small and/or supports one timber type that will be managed as a single parcel. Practice Plans are often used to document existing conditions and make management recommendations for federal or state cost-share programs.

Practice Plan Criteria

Plan Criteria

All Practice Plans should:

  • Be prepared by a professional forest resource manager.
  • Document authorship and landowner information, as well as contact information.
  • Include property identification and location information.
  • Clearly state landowner objectives.
  • Describe existing site conditions.
  • List any recent management activities.
  • Include detailed management recommendations.
  • Include a detailed map of the property.

Cost-Share Plans

Cost-Share Plans are single-resource management plans that state objectives, current stand characteristics, and make specific practice recommendations for practices that are covered under a state or federal cost-share program. Check the requirements of the specific cost-share program being considered to verify whether a multi-resource Forest Management Plan or a single-resource plan type is required for participation.

Cost-Share Plan Criteria

Plan Criteria

Cost-Share Plans may be in narrative format or on a specific program form, and should:

  • Document authorship and landowner information, as well as contact information.
  • State landowner objective.
  • Describe existing conditions.
  • Include detailed management recommendations.
  • Include a map of the property.

Land-Use Plans

Land-Use Plans are concise one- to two-page plans that include very brief information about the present forest stands, the soils, and also include general forest management practice recommendations. They are developed to meet the planning requirements of some counties to participate in use-value taxation programs. The plan will cover all forested acres on a contiguous tract. Land-use plans do not contain sufficient detail to qualify for cost-share programs, and are not equivalent to Tree Farm Plans and Forest Stewardship Management Plans. Land-Use Plans developed by VDOF staff incur a nominal fee.

Land-Use Plan Criteria

Plan Criteria

Land-Use Plans may be in narrative format and should:

  • Document authorship and landowner information, as well as contact information.
  • Briefly describe existing conditions of the forest stand.
  • Briefly describe the soils.
  • State landowner objectives.
  • Include general forest management practice recommendations.
  • Include a map of the property.

Pre-Harvest Plans

Pre-harvest plans are specific plans developed to assist landowners and/or logging contractors to minimize the potential impact to soil and water quality when conducting a timber harvesting operation. The plan is based on standards in the Virginia’s Forestry Best Management Practices (BMP) for Water Quality – Technical Guide and will identify recommended best management practices. VDOF staff can develop these pre-harvest plans, while loggers or logging managers generally prepare the actual harvest plan.

Pre-Harvest Plan Criteria

Plan Criteria

All Pre-Harvest Plans should:

  • Document authorship and landowner information, as well as contact information.
  • Include a detailed harvest site map identifying harvest boundaries, water features, and streamside management zones, as well as recommended logging deck, haul road, and skid trail locations.
  • Include recommendations for layout of haul roads, landings, decks, and skid trails.
  • Include recommendations for stream crossing structures, design and installation.
  • Identify potential problems areas, such as fragile soils or steep slopes, and streamside management zones that may require special treatment during the harvesting operation.
  • Include recommendations for post-harvest soil stabilization and revegetation practices, and other best management practices.

Community Forest Management Plan

This goal is to provide a plan to a total neighborhood, subdivision, community, or part thereof to achieve resource objectives. Numerous individual ownerships may be included. VDOF staff would communicate with a community representative (s) with authority to request the plan and provide objectives. Areas covered could include commonly-owned areas, as well as private land. A field examination is expected, but may or may not extend to the individual tax parcel level. This type of plan could be integrated with woodland home community fire mitigation plans.


Which Plan is Best for Me?

Contact a VDOF forester for guidance about which plan meets your needs.

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Additional Resources

ImageTitleIDDescriptionContent Typedocument-category_hfilterMedia_hfilter
Alternate Management Plan
Alternate Management Plan7.06Viewforest-managementform
Alternate Management Plan Supplement For… (Transfer)
Alternate Management Plan Supplement For… (Transfer)7.07Viewforest-managementform
Century Forest Application
Century Forest Application10.03

Application to apply for the recognition in the Century Forest Program.

Viewforestland-conservationform
Forest Legacy Program Application - Conservation Easement
Forest Legacy Program Application – Conservation Easement10.04Viewforestland-conservationform
Forest Legacy Program Application - Fee Simple Purchase
Forest Legacy Program Application – Fee Simple Purchase10.05Viewforestland-conservationform
Forest Legacy Program Application - Property Data Sheet
Forest Legacy Program Application – Property Data Sheet10.06Viewforestland-conservationform
Forest Management Services Agreement
Forest Management Services Agreement7.01Viewforest-managementform
Forest Stewardship Program Application
Forest Stewardship Program Application7.10Viewforest-managementform
Forests and Water - Get the Most Out of Your Land
Forests and Water – Get the Most Out of Your LandP00211

Publication is directed to landowners to educate about forest buffers, stream water quality, watersheds, riparian buffer tax credit program and other programs that can assist. Printed copies available.

Viewwater-qualitypublication
Landowner Options for Forestland Conservation
Landowner Options for Forestland ConservationP00146

Brochure provides information regarding options available to landowners for conserving their forestland, including use-value taxation, ag and forestal districts, riparian Buffer tax credit, cost-share assistance, conservation easements, purchase of development rights, grants for fee-simple acquisition and easements, and donations of property. Printed copies available.

Viewforestland-conservationpublication
National Timber Tax Website
National Timber Tax Website

The National Timber Tax Website was developed to be used by timberland owners, as well as a reference for accountants, attorneys, consulting foresters and other professionals who work with timberland owners regarding the tax treatment of timber related activities.

Viewfinancial-assistance-forest-management forest-managementresource
NRCS Conservation Activity Plan (CAP 106) Landowner Information
NRCS Conservation Activity Plan (CAP 106) Landowner Information7.09Viewforest-managementform
Open-Space Easement Donation Application
Open-Space Easement Donation Application10.01Viewforestland-conservationform
Open-Space Easement Landowner Checklist
Open-Space Easement Landowner Checklist10.02Viewforestland-conservationform
Plan Your Forest's Future
Plan Your Forest’s FutureP00205

Brochure provides information regarding the responsibility of owning forestland and the importance of planning your forest’s future, conserving your forestland, forest planning options, types of plans, elements of a plan, and benefits of a plan. Printed copies available.

Viewforest-managementpublication
Services for Landowners
Services for LandownersP00112

Brochure provides information about the services available to landowners from the Virginia Department of Forestry, including forest management and Forest Health, timber harvesting and water quality, land conservation, tree seedling production, and resource protection. Printed copies available.

Viewfire-and-emergency-response forest-health forest-management forestland-conservation nurseries urban-and-community-forestry water-qualitypublication
Tables For Measuring Timber
Tables For Measuring TimberP00058

Pocket card provides tables to assist in measuring and calculating timber volumes.

Viewforest-managementpublication
Virginia Forest Stewardship Management Plan Template
Virginia Forest Stewardship Management Plan Template

Standard template to be used as a base document with individual information modified as needed and general format and structure to remain consistent.

Viewforest-managementtemplate
Virginia Forest Stewardship Plan - Appendix
Virginia Forest Stewardship Plan – AppendixP00212

Appendix provides an excellent supplement to an individual landowner’s Forest Stewardship Plan. Subjects include land ownership, forest management, forest products marketing, water quality, forest health, fire, forests and wildlife, forest recreation, forest conservation, natural heritage and historic resources, taxes and financial assistance, forest stewardship program and certification, glossary, and contacts. Printed copies available with VDOF Stewardship Plan development services only.

Viewforest-managementpublication
Virginia Forest Stewardship Plan - Appendix - Introduction Cover Letter
Virginia Forest Stewardship Plan – Appendix – Introduction Cover LetterP00212

Appendix provides an excellent supplement to an individual landowner’s Forest Stewardship Plan. Subjects include land ownership, forest management, forest products marketing, water quality, forest health, fire, forests and wildlife, forest recreation, forest conservation, natural heritage and historic resources, taxes and financial assistance, forest stewardship program and certification, glossary, and contacts. Printed copies available with VDOF Stewardship Plan development services only.

Viewforest-managementpublication

Contact Us

VDOF foresters can assist you with your forestland, contact your local VDOF forester.

For more information or questions, e-mail us or use our contact form.