Examining the worth of Woodland Management Planning in a climate of rising timber values.

23rd July 2018

The recent high prices in the timber market have been of great benefit to many a woodland owner, but how many owners have the standing timber but are not in a position to take advantage of the upturn in the market?

We are finding that more and more land owners and managers are looking at bringing in a strategy of active woodland management, to ensure that they are able to take full advantage of market changes. It is also encouraging to note that through the Forestry Commission, the Government is seeking to support this work.

Effective management for any purpose requires a strategy and this is just as relevant to woodland management as any other enterprise. In fact, in the case of woodland, it is probably even more important because of the timescales involved. From seed to timber harvest, means many years, inevitably reaching beyond the tenure of just one site manager, and sometimes across generations of owners. So planning for the future is imperative.

The preparation of a Woodland Management Plan, assists the landowner in taking stock of their woodland(s), identifying what is ready for felling, thinning, or re-structuring and allows for swift response to the changing market. It also and will also help in the longer term strategy of the re-stock, the methods of timber extraction, any capital investment requirements for infrastructure, and even identifying the non-timber benefits of the woodlands. For example, a bit of cash income from a quick timber sale may not cover the lost revenue from spoiling the best drive on the farm shoot.

Beyond the timber value, the woodland resource will likely provide habitats for many valued species of flora and fauna, they lock-up carbon, sited well – they can reduce soil erosion, clean up diffuse pollutants and reduce flooding. Woodlands help create the character of the landscape and are of course also enjoyed for recreation as an amenity. A farmer may see them as shelter for livestock, biosecurity when strategically planted, a source of wood fuel and of fencing products.

It is this variety of issues that make strategy and management planning so important as they provide the opportunity to clearly set out the management priorities and objectives for each location. Targets are set for meeting the objectives, and threats (pests, disease, etc.) that may derail them are identified and mitigated. It is the difference between pro-active management rather than reactionary management which never quite catches up, and, of course, silvicultural strategy being the central theme.

The Government recognises the value of this pro-activity and the Forestry Commission (FC) offers a grant to woodland owners and managers to help. Currently offered through Countryside Stewardship, this grant provides support for the compilation of a management plan which is then submitted to the FC for consultation and approval.

An approved management plan template, covering the key components, is available from the FC. It can be used to make the application for a 10-year felling license and gives access to other woodland management grants.

The template addresses the specific requirements of the UK Forestry Standard, which is the Governments’ policy document for sustainable forestry. It identifies all the issues we have looked at in this article and covers all the legal requirements and Good Forestry Practice Recommendations, which should be met to satisfy the “sustainable” balance between Environmental, Economic and Social factors of the UK’s forest and woodland resource.

For a Woodland Management Plan to be approved by the FC and any grant to support the production of the plan is paid, the management plan must meet these standards. Furthermore, an approved plan assists with UKFS Certification of a woodland, allowing access to higher timber prices from the sawmill. Woodland owners and managers seeking help with a successful plan would be wise to contact a professional adviser, such as ourselves, to maximise the chances of success.”

For more information, please contact Mike Dyke at H&H Land and Property on 01228 406260.