A Maryland county forester talks with a landowner
Updated: March 24, 2021

Knowing how to begin managing your woodlands can be a daunting task. Below are some of the most common questions we receive related to getting started in woodland management.

Whom do I contact to get the information I need on forest and wildlife management?

Contact your local Department of Natural Resources (DNR) forester for technical assistance on forest stewardship. The forester usually works with the DNR wildlife biologist to incorporate wildlife recommendations into a forest stewardship plan. Contact your local DNR wildlife biologist for other information on regulations, hunting, etc. Contact your local Extension office for educational publications and workshops on forestry and wildlife. And, please refer to the wildlife publications offered on this site.

Can I practice woodland stewardship on an area less than 10 acres?

Yes. Management of natural resources in areas less than 10 acres can have an impact and can be rewarding. The Maryland DNR Forest Service requires a minimum of 5 acres, excluding one acre for a homesite, to develop a written Forest Stewardship Plan. Visit our "The Woods in Your Backyard" pages for more information. Consult our Maryland Small Acreage Professional Foresters Directory (Fact Sheet 1067), and explore other links in this web site for information on managing small acreage.

Is it okay to “skip ahead” of natural succession by planting trees like oaks without waiting for earlier vegetation to grow and be phased out?

It depends on your objectives, whether you are managing for forest products, wildlife, or a combination of the two.  However, it is always recommended to encourage natural succession which costs significantly less and ensures that only native species will grow. Contact your DNR forester for advice.

Is there a comprehensive list of cost share programs?

The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Farm Services Agency and the Maryland DNR Forest Service provide cost share assistance to landowners to help defray the cost of forest improvement practices. The Maryland DNR Forest Service is responsible for providing technical assistance to the landowner, helping find vendors to do the work, and reporting completion of the practice. Go to http://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Pages/programapps/costshareprograms.aspx for more information on cost share programs. Also, visit Stewardship Planning - Cost-Share Assistance on this site.

What are the requirements for the CREP program? Whom do I contact? How much does it pay?

The Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) grew out of increasing recognition that wetlands and lands adjacent to streams (riparian areas) and other water bodies have a tremendous impact on water quality and provide critical wildlife habitat. Under CREP, landowners contract with the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) through their local Farm Service Agency to receive annual rental payments for taking land out of production and installing conservation practices adjacent to waterways. With the additional support of the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation/Ducks Unlimited, landowners can also receive up to 100% reimbursement for cost of installation of conservation practices, such as wetland restoration, riparian forest or vegetative buffer planting, or retirement of highly erodible lands. The contract agreement lasts for 10 to 15 years. In addition, landowners can sign a conservation easement and receive an additional bonus payment in exchange for retaining the conservation practices in perpetuity. Landowners should contact their local FSA or Soil Conservation District Office to find out if their land meets CREP contract eligibility requirements. For more information, see https://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/Pages/habitat/milo.aspx.

Who is the best, objective resource for developing a forest stewardship plan?

Developing a forest stewardship plan with a state Department of Natural Resources forester, a consulting forester, or another natural resource professional offers an excellent opportunity for landowners to become better acquainted with their property and its potential. The University of Maryland Extension has also created a directory of consulting and professional foresters who provide services to property owners with 10 acres or less (available here). The forester can help answer technical questions, provide specific information about the various resources present, and also help to focus and better define the landowner's objectives for the future.

State DNR foresters can develop forest stewardship plans for a fee, but may have a waiting list. Consulting foresters in Maryland are private foresters, professionally trained and experienced, who offer their forest management services to represent the best interests of a prospective client. These services are usually offered on a fee, contract, or contingency basis.

As when engaging any professional, it is advisable to enter into a written legal service contract or agreement that specifies exactly what is to be done and the results to be obtained from the forester. All foresters in Maryland must be registered, certifying that they have an academic degree, experience, and participate in continuing education. Some states do not have these requirements. Ask for the forester’s credentials as well as references.

How do I select a consulting forester?

To assist as many landowners as possible when seeking professional forestry services, state DNR foresters will often refer landowners to private consulting and industrial foresters. For a comprehensive list of foresters licensed to practice in Maryland, go here.

In selecting a consulting forester, interview several to determine who will help you establish your objectives, implement them in ways satisfying to you, and with whom you are comfortable working.

Is there a minimum size property that a DNR forester will visit? Is there a cost?

A minimum of 5 forested acres is needed. If the property includes a homesite, one acre is removed from the calculations, so you really need 6 acres as a minimum. See the DNR website Forestry Assistance to Landowners for fees for these and other services by DNR foresters.

What are the benefits of a forest stewardship plan?

A Forest Stewardship Plan is a guide a property owner follows to meet long-term objectives for forest land. This written document describes the forest resources present on the property, the landowner's management goals and objectives, and the recommended practices or activities to be carried out over time. In addition, a Forest Stewardship Plan can meet the requirement for reduced property assessment and resulting real estate taxes. For more information, see Fact Sheet 625: Developing a Forest Stewardship Plan - The Key to Forest Management.

Does one have to hire a contractor to plant trees or is it reasonable for an inexperienced person to rent equipment for initial planting?

It depends on the person and the amount of planting. If you have knowledge of equipment, the terrain, and tree planting techniques and have physical stamina, time, and some help, you probably can do it. Discuss your options with your DNR forester or a private consulting forester. If you need planting assistance, the foresters can share sources from which to choose.

Are there any tax advantages to having my property in forestry? What are the options?

Property taxes for forest land can be reduced by lowering the property assessment. This can be accomplished by either 1) enrolling in a Forest Management Plan (FMP), 2) enrolling in a Forest Conservation Management Agreement (FCMA), 3) donating or selling a conservation easement, or 4) otherwise qualifying for an agricultural assessment. Learn more about the FMP and the FCMA at our Stewardship Planning Options page.