By Stephen Cole
NSWOOA Staff Forester
With financial support from the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources, NSWOOA undertook a woodlot owner outreach project in 2012. The work was part of a broader provincial initiative to encourage more private woodlot owners to become active managers of their lands. This final report describes the work completed by NSWOOA from May through December 2012.
The outreach project was undertaken by Stephen Cole, our staff forester, during a time of sweeping change in the provincial forest sector, as well as a sharp decline in the percentage of private woodlot owners who are selling timber. The goal was to make contact with approximately 100 landowners and determine the current state of their woodlots and their current/future goals and objectives.
Landowners received a visit by the forester (usually a 2-5 hour walk) on the woodlot, discussing their ideas, vision, and options for forest management. This information was summarized in a short report, which the landowner received along with an aerial photograph and an information package containing a list of other information and resources based on their needs.
Ultimately, 102 landowners from Liverpool to Amherst to Cheticamp were visited. At each woodlot, the following were identified or assessed:
- Age of landowner
- Parcel size
- Status of use
- Goals and objectives of landowner
- Road access
- Presence and abundance of timber
- Result of outreach
- Interest in alternatives to clear-cutting harvest methods
- Interest in using silviculture programs
- Interest in having a management plan
The ages of woodlot owners visited during this project are summarized in Figure 1. The total hectares represented by each age group are displayed in Figure 2.
Figure 1 The age of woodlot owners visited during the 2012 NSWOOA site-visit project
Figure 2 The total hectares in each age class
Parcel size (or acreage) plays a role in determining a landowner's participation status and goals and objectives. The size of acreages owned by the landowner varied from less than 10 to over 2,000 hectares. For the purpose of this report, parcel size can mean the sum of multiple abutting PID numbers. The parcel size of woodlot owners visited during this project are summarized in Figure 3. The total hectares represented by each size class is displayed in Figure 4.
Figure 3 The number of landowners visited under each parcel size class
Figure 4 Total hectares represented by each parcel size class
STATUS OF USE
One of the first things to be identified through the Outreach Project was the current level of engagement. The following is a list of why landowners own woodlots today as encountered during the Outreach Project. The number in brackets indicates how many of the 102 landowners fell under that category. The total hectares represented by each category is displayed in Figure 5.
1.Managing their woodlot for forestry purposes (34)
2. Not managing, but are interested in managing for the first time (21)
3. Not managing, but have managed before are interested in managing again (11)
4. The woodlot is only harvested for personal use (15)
5. Their woodlot is an extension of the backyard and is used as such (13)
6. Their woodlot is not with their home and is used for recreation only (8)
Figure 5 Total hectares represented by each status of use category
GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
The goals and objectives of the landowner are generally reflective of their reason for owning the woodlot and have been presented below. The number in brackets indicates how many of the 102 landowners that have been visited would name this as one of their goals.
(Note: The total will not add up to 102 as most landowners had several objectives.)
1.Sustainably manage the woodlot for the future (79)
2. Periodically harvest timber (69)
3. Conserve rare forest types (18)
4. Manage Christmas trees (10)
5. Perform silviculture (54)
6. Just own it to walk on it (10)
7. Increase bio-diversity and/or forest health (43)
PRESENCE AND ABUNDANCE OF TIMBER
At each woodlot, the timber crop was subjectively assessed by the forester to determine what portion of the woodlot was cut-over, immature wood, or harvestable. The amount of timber was also subjectively assessed in solid cubic meters.
(Note: Just because merchantable wood was present may not mean a harvest is economically feasible or that the landowner desires a harvest.)
1. Most of the woodlot has been clear-cut in the last 20 years (28 sites)
2. The woodlot is dominated by harvestable timber (43)
3. The woodlot contains a mixture of timber conditions (41)
1.No harvestable wood at all (18 sites)
2. Less than 200 m3 (12)
3. Between 200 and 1000 m3 (26)
4. Greater than 1000 m3 (46)
RESULT OF OUTREACH
At the end of the project, a follow-up phone call, e-mail, or the results of on-site discussion were used to assess what each landowner intended to take as a next step, if any, towards managing their woodlot. This was done for all 102 landowners.
1.Began or continued management themselves (56 owners)
2.Sought out professional management (consultant, group venture, etc.) (10)
3. Sought out a contractor to begin work (11)
4. Interested, but unable to move forward with management (8)
5.No change in level of engagement (17)
INTEREST IN ALTERNATIVES TO CLEAR-CUTTING
One possible reason that private landowners have disengaged from active management is the indiscriminate clear-cutting that dominates the landscape of rural Nova Scotia. We asked each landowner if they would prefer to harvest using non-clear-cut methods where appropriate. Out of the 102 landowners visited, 84 (82%) said they would allow harvesting on their property using non clear-cut methods.
INTEREST IN ACCESSING SILVICULTURE FUNDING
Under the Registry of Buyers program, Nova Scotia users of primary forest products are required to contribute to a silviculture program for the wood that they consume. The government also has an annual silviculture budget, which is administered through the Association for Sustainable Forestry (ASF). Of the 102 landowners visited, 84 (82%) were interested in accessing government silviculture programs for their woodlots.
INTEREST IN MANAGEMENT PLANS
Without any explanation or description of what a plan would contain or provide, 65 of the 102 landowners (64%) indicated that they would like to have one. Furthermore, of the 36% who said they were not interested in a plan, 23% already had one, which is why they declined. This means that only 13% of the 102 landowners were completely uninterested in having a management plan. No effort was made to distinguish between certified and non-certified plans, just management plans in general.
Next month, we'll offer some thoughts about conclusions that can be drawn from the 2012 site visit programme.