Assessing the health of your woods when you don’t have a lot of knowledge about what is growing on the property is a challenge. Traditional extension workshops allow access to forestry professionals, but the use of new mobile apps make exploring your woods fun and educational. HealthyWoods, a collaborative effort between forest specialists from Kentucky and other hardwood-producing states in the Appalachian region, including Maryland, provides woodland owners with a convenient tool to scout the health of their woods. It was designed to be useful for landowners from a wide range of settings from New York, Ohio and Maryland to as far south as Georgia and South Carolina.
Ellen Crocker, Forest Health Specialist at the University of Kentucky, led the project that developed the app, and believes it has great value for landowners: “We made this educational tool that walks them through the process as they walk through the woods.” Users answer a series of questions and can upload pictures from their phones. Questions deal with such things as how the canopy looks, how healthy the trees are, what the understory looks like, and whether invasive species are present. Pictures are used to identify the choices provided so it is a visual learning experience. The questions direct the user to determine if it is a mature forest, one recently harvested, what tree species are present, and how what they see fits with their goals.
After completing the questions, the user immediately receives a report geared to their management goals, whether that’s timber production, recreation, or attracting wildlife. If called for, the report includes suggestions for improving the stand. It also provides contact information, if the owner wants to bring in a professional to help guide management. The user can save the report as a PDF that can then be emailed. They also can review previously saved reports online to see their progress. This is something all landowners should download and take a walk through their woods and see what they can learn!
The HealthyWoods app is not a diagnostic tool and it will not provide landowners with specific identification of forest health threats or recommend management approaches. Rather, the HealthyWoods app will focus on core concepts and assist landowners in formulating a report on the current state of their property that can be used to connect with forestry professionals who can help develop a plan of action that best meets their goals for their forest or woodland.
The Maryland Woodland Stewardship Program is planning a webinar in the near future to help landowners learn how to use the app, and face-to-face outdoor workshops will be offered when COVID-related restrictions make it possible.
HealthyWoods is available for free for iPhone and Android devices on the internet at https://healthywoodsapp.org or at your device’s app store. Give it a try and let us know how it works for you.