Source: American Forest Foundation
In an effort to make on-the-ground stewardship of America’s forests more widespread and effective, the American Forest Foundation (AFF) has launched MyLandPlan.org, a new interactive website for woodland owners, by woodland owners.
A team of AFF staff and volunteers drew on their experiences as woodland owners and created an easy-to-use website to assist family forest owners to map, protect, and enjoy their woods.
AFF launched the site to help address a vexing challenge within the forestry community around how to reach most of America’s woodland owners. Family forest owners own the largest portion of forests in America, accounting for 251 million acres. Only four percent of woodland owners have any kind of management plan for their land, despite the fact that nearly 50 percent have harvested trees from their property, and only 14 percent have received professional advice before harvesting.
While there are many agencies and organizations that provide useful information about forestry, AFF’s new website is designed for woodland owners to help them learn about their land and identify their interests and goals—whether they include improving wildlife habitat, recreational opportunities, birding, income, or other interests.
“We believe there are millions of woodland owners who are curious about what’s happening in their woods, and yet aren’t sure what to ask to get the answers they might need. Woodland owners own their property for a variety of reasons and we want MyLandPlan.org to be a place they can go to explore and find out more about their land,” said Tom Martin, President and CEO of AFF.
“Once they begin to explore more fully what they want to do with their land, they will begin to identify goals for their land, which will lead to greater stewardship,” added Martin.
The exclusive mapping tool, a key part of MyLandPlan.org, was designed to help users map woodlands and record features such as streams, trails, plants and wildlife. Through the tool, they can identify goals for their property and once selected, the tool suggests recommended action steps and offers customized information to help reach these goals. The site also connects woodland owners to local professionals and organizations that can offer guidance and assistance as needed.
Giving woodland owners the tools they need to make the best decisions for their land, and to encourage owners to seek professional advice are among the outcomes AFF hopes will be achieved through MyLandPlan.org.
“I know from my own experience, when we first purchased our woodlands in Western Maryland, I wanted to just let it be. This is a common experience for a lot of woodland owners who think doing nothing is the best thing to do. But with invasives, disease, fire, and other threats, now I know that to keep our woods healthy for the long term, I have to take a more active role in what’s going on in my woods. We want MyLandPlan to help others recognize the value—and the fun—of getting more involved in the stewardship of their property,” said Jennifer Jones, AFF’s Vice President for Communications.
Some woodland owners are already beginning to experience the benefits that MyLandPlan.org promises. “I feel like MyLandPlan was invented for me. I collect all my observations of nature and other information about my woods in one place. And it connects me to a vast array of other useful sites. For me, it’s a land management and land enjoyment tool,” said Paul Muller, an early adopter of the site with forestland in Indiana. Muller has joined several hundred other early adopters who have already mapped more than 30,000 acres of woodlands, using the exclusive mapping tool on the site.
"Americans rely on the benefits that family forests provide—clean air, clean water, recreation, wildlife habitat and renewable resources. However, it’s getting harder to hold on to forest land and keep it healthy. While there is no single solution to stemming the loss of America’s private forests, we can’t be successful in protecting America’s forest legacy without more active engagement by more woodland owners. MyLandPlan.org is an innovative way to engage woodland owners and an essential part of the conservation solution,” said Martin.
If you wonder about your woods, visit http://www.mylandplan.org and start exploring today.
About the American Forest Foundation: The American Forest Foundation (AFF) works nationwide and in partnership with local, state, and national groups to provide hands-on support for America’s 10 million family forest owners, giving them the tools they need to manage healthy and sustainable woodlands. Visit http://www.forestfoundation.org to learn more about AFF and its signature programs, Project Learning Tree and the American Tree Farm System.