Farmers and other landowners are fairly conscientious about taking care of portions of their land. Pasture and hay land is fertilized and limed, gardens and lawns are kept weeded, watered and basically “managed” to grow what you want. Some do a better job than others of course, but when it comes to managing forest land, most landowners don’t even realize it can be managed to provide a number of benefits.
Taking care of a forest is not that difficult and usually takes small portions of time. The first step is to decide what you want from your forest. The choices include things like growing timber, providing wildlife habitat for hunting or viewing, provide leisure activities such as hiking, camping, bird watching, etc. Another important use of the forest is soil stabilization on steep areas, which trees are very good at doing. Many of these goals can be met at the same time because you can grow timber while also providing habitat and recreation.
After deciding what benefits you want from your forest, the next step is to actively manage the forest to provide them. If it’s timber, try to get the best trees to grow fast and produce high quality logs. A grade 1 log is worth many times more than a grade 3, and oak is way more valuable than red maple. So pick out the best trees when they are young and see to it they have enough room to grow by cutting or deadening undesirable trees competing with them.
For wildlife habitat, get the forest to grow food and cover, and try to have different aged areas so there is a lot of diversity. Diversity means more food and shelter which equals more wildlife. You may have it already, or you may need to do some tweaking.
For recreation, you may want to put in some trails or encourage wildflowers and colorful flowering shrubs. You can even get the fall colors you want by manipulating the tree species. For yellow favor poplar, sugar maple, and hickories. Fore reds, shoot for blackgum, dogwood, sassafras, and sourwood.
The point I’m getting at is that the forest should not be left out when it comes to land management. Contact your local state forestry office and let him show you what you have and what you can do with it.