John Bennett has over 20 years' experience managing his land in Cecil County, MD. In that time he has sought and received the help of the DNR Forest Service and the local Forestry Board.
I purchased the property in 1986 and quickly realized I had a serious erosion problem. My research led me to the DNR Forest Service forester for Cecil County. He recommended a management plan which would make me eligible for cost-sharing funds. I agreed and began the process.
I first wanted the cost share assistance to deal with the erosion. I was able to dig 8 diagonal ditches across the eroding hillside and cover each of them with 18" metal grates, so I could drive a vehicle up and down. Once that was accomplished, the management plan was revised to manage for timber, wildlife habitat, recreation and firewood production. Since about 1990, I have been working yearly to accomplish timber stand improvements by reducing the overstocked timber in certain areas. Some of the thinnings are used for firewood; others are piled to create homes for wildlife. The piles also provide ground based deer hunting locations. I have typically poor soil on my woodlot, but, because of the practices instituted, I have developed some decent sized timber; not yet market size, but with potential. The DNR Forest Service forester also encouraged me to consider joining the local Forestry Board, which I did in 1999.
Steve Koehn, John Bennett and Melvin Noland (l to r) stand while John receives the Maryland Forestry Board Member of the Year award
The initial project was quite difficult; but luckily I was younger and had the energy. The metal grates have worked surprisingly well, and show no signs of damage after 20 years. The only work now is to clean out the year's accumulation of leaves and debris. The hillside has totally stabilized with grass and weeds. The yearly TSI is performed as I have time and energy. Opening up the overstocked areas has allowed for more successful hunting, and consequently I experience less deer damage to regenerating seedlings.
Most woodlots do not manage themselves. Like gardens, they can get overrun with "weedy" trees and would benefit from a thinning. Having a management plan can help with the identification and possible cost sharing for such a project; which will result in a more healthy forest.