Tree Farm Planning for Results

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Introduction
The ultimate reason for planning is to obtain desirable outcomes. Planning for results begins with defining your vision for the tree farm, formulating multi-resource goals to support your vision, and establishing the steps you will take to reach each goal. To obtain desirable outcomes, the management direction must be organized and articulated so that the objectives flow consistently from the goals, which in turn flow from your overall vision for the tree farm.

Defining the Vision
The first step toward successful tree farming is to formulate a vision statement. This statement will guide the drafting of all subsequent goals and objectives. What is a vision statement? Simply put, a vision statement is where you want to be relative to the property’s resource conditions. A well formulated vision statement contains key elements which include:

  1. Suggest an action
  2. Suggest who is participating
  3. Define a destination

The action part should not be too specific, but rather vague to allow members to impart their own creativity and take ownership of individual tasks in the future. This will also permit the breadth for creating or adapting goals in the future as new information becomes available. Suggesting who is participating imparts responsibility and ownership in crafting the direction and management of the tree farm. Finally, a clear destination on where the management of the tree farm is going will help shape all subsequent goals and objectives. The destination can relate to preferred resource conditions, showcasing the benefits of management, enhancing family activities, preferred amenities, etc.

If your vision statement is short and succinct, you will remember it often and it will show in everything you do on the tree farm. The vision statement is the primary opportunity to bring together all participating members to find a language and imagery all members can relate to as their vision of a successful tree farm. This can be done simply by having each member list what they currently value about the tree farm and what they want to see accomplished in the future.

Combine all the lists to determine common values and those values unique to each member. The common values can serve as the basis for drafting your vision statement, while the unique values are often better incorporated at the level of objectives. One important test of your vision statement: does it make all members of the family excited and motivated to accomplish a commonly held outcome? The vision will only motivate you if it challenges and stretches you beyond your current perspectives.

Accomplishing the Vision - Goals
According to Mr. Webster, “goals are the objects of your efforts; an end or aim.” For tree farmers, goals reflect the long-term view of what the tree farm will be managed for in terms of outcomes. Each goal must be consistent with the vision statement, and thus, consistent with the desires of each member of the tree farm. To get at the objects of your efforts consider asking yourself the following:

  1. What do we want from the tree farm?
  2. What do we want our tree farm to look like in the future?
  3. What about our tree farm is most important to us?

Answering these questions is one way to “flesh-out” the goals inherent to your vision statement, while defining some order or priorities to managing the tree farm. Getting at some useful answers begins with looking first at how you are currently using the tree farm: primary residence, investment, recreation, etc. How you are currently using the tree farm says a lot about your interests, preferences, priorities, financial capacity, and your philosophy on forest management.

Next, develop a framework of reference from which you can categorize the answers to these questions and the list of values you developed during the crafting of your vision statement. One useful framework would be to define management categories based on the property’s natural resources. For those enrolled in the Tree Farm System, the natural categories might include:

  • Recreation
  • Wood
  • Water
  • Wildlife

Once the pertinent questions are asked for each of the management categories, the members of the tree farm can establish goals that address the comprehensive management of all the tree farm’s natural resources.

Reaching the Goals - Objectives
The final phase in defining your management direction is the development of objectives consistent with your goals. Objectives are the specific steps you will take to accomplish your goal(s), while focused on the end result. Each objective must state clearly the task(s) to be accomplished, the timeframe for completing the tasks, and ideally, what the task(s) will cost. This latter consideration is critical - when combined with the capacity of the property - to verify if the objectives can be converted into attainable tasks.

Refining your goals into workable tasks will require some basic knowledge of your tree farm members and the property’s natural resources. What are the likes, dislikes, priorities, physical ability, financial capacity, and forest management knowledge of your members? Since these are likely to change over time, objectives must be periodically revised through a continuous process of research and decision-making. Many management tasks can be scheduled and accomplished simultaneously. Strive to develop objectives that produce byproducts useful as inputs to meeting other objectives. Such synergy will not only save time and money, it will improve the consistency in your management direction.

Concluding Thoughts
Remember, the owner’s vision and subsequent goals and objectives for the property are unique. Each property comes with a unique combination of natural resources, unique external factors, and most importantly, a desire to do something unique. The ultimate management direction and decisions rest solely on the landowner(s), and must be documented if the plan is to define outcomes consistent with the landowner’s values and dreams for the future. To ensure desirable outcomes are reached, each member of the tree farm must be involved. Not only should each member participate in developing the management direction, each should be willing to take responsibility for developing and implementing the necessary tasks for achieving each objective.

Though developing your management direction is the most personal phase of management planning, you should still seek the advice of natural resource professionals. They can help you articulate your goals, and especially your objectives, which often require more technical knowledge to write effectively. When thinking of your plans for managing the tree farm, remember, "A vision statement is what you think, goals are what you see, and objectives are the steps that carry you to what you think you see."