Many forest owners want to leave their land and forest in better condition than when they received it. Are you one of these special individuals committed to improving the forest for present and future generations?

If you are among that special group, foresters and agency professionals stand ready to assist you through the North Carolina Forest Stewardship Program. What’s at stake is our quality of life, our natural environment, and our economy.

Public forestland no longer can meet all demands for timber, clean water, wildlife, productive soil, and recreational opportunities. Privately owned forestland, however, can help to meet those demands if the owners have the desire and ability to manage their land for multiple purposes.

Private landowners and farmers are the primary keepers of North Carolina’s vast forest resources. Together, they control 67 percent of the 18.4 million acres of forestland in the state. If future generations are to share in the beauty, diversity, and productivity of today’s forests, many landowners will need to manage all of their forest resources in harmony.

The Importance of North Carolina Forests

North Carolina is blessed with abundant forestland that makes valuable contributions to the quality of life and the state’s economy. Forestland is home to wildlife and is a major source of the state’s clean drinking water. It provides a place for recreational activities such as hiking, fishing, hunting, and camping. North Carolina’s forests also are widely recognized for their scenic value, which strengthens the travel and tourism industries. Forests add to the beauty and quality of life that North Carolinians have come to expect.

North Carolina’s forest resources play a significant part in the furniture and forest products industries, which are important components of the state’s economy. One out of six manufacturing workers depends on forests for a living, and North Carolina ships over $17.3 billion worth of manufactured forest products annually. Recreation, travel, and tourism contribute an additional $10.2 billion to the state’s economy each year. Improving the health of NorthCarolina’s forests and keeping them productive is vital to present and future generations.

Through the North Carolina Forest Stewardship Program, public agencies work together to assist landowners who want to improve their forests. By providing educational, technical, and financial assistance, resource professionals help landowners realize the benefits of being good forest stewards.

What Is Stewardship?

Forest stewardship is the wise use and conservation of all forest resources including wildlife, timber, soil, water, recreational opportunities, and natural beauty. It is a commitment to the land for today and tomorrow. Stew- ards are proud of their forestland. Forest stewardship:

  1. protects water quality
  2. improves fish and wildlife habitat
  3. enhances soil productivity and minimizes erosion
  4. keeps forests productive
  5. enhances natural beauty
  6. supports recreational activities

The Forest Stewardship Program

The North Carolina Forest Stewardship Program is a cooperative effort to help owners manage their forests for the benefits they desire. The program is voluntary, and participants receive recognition for their achievements in promoting total forest resource management. Landowners receive technical assistance in developing a stewardship management plan. This forest stewardship plan is based on the landowner’s objectives, and activities are scheduled to enhance the forest for wildlife, soil and water quality, timber production, recreational opportunities, and natural beauty.

The forest stewardship plan is action oriented and follows a time schedule that is compatible with the owner’s resources and ability to conduct the work. Once agency and resource professionals make recommendations, the landowner decides which activities to pursue. The recommendations focus on practical modifications of existing conditions rather than costly investments.

Stewardship practices do not need to be expensive to be beneficial. In fact, many landowners already practice good stewardship in many of their management activities. The following lists summarize a few of the management practices that can help to enhance forest resources.

To promote wildlife

  • Construct brush piles to provide cover
  • Encourage nativevegetation, especially species that enhance wildlife
  • Protect endangered species
  • Plant food and cover plots
  • Use prescribed burning, mowing, and selective herbicide applications
  • Erect nesting structures Protect den and mast trees

To improve timber production

  • Use prescribed burning to reduce wildfire hazard and to control hardwoods and brush
  • Thin to promote the health and growth of trees
  • Improve the timber stand to maintain high-value trees
  • Plan for regeneration before harvesting

To conserve soil and water

  • Seed roads and trails to prevent erosion
  • Construct proper access roads
  • Minimize stream crossings and construct proper structures when required
  • Leave streamside buffers to shade streams and to trap sediments and nutrients
  • Follow “Best Management Practices”

To enhance recreation and aesthetics

  • Maintain trails for hiking and horseback riding
  • Maintain the forest for hunting and wildlife viewing
  • Leave buffer strips near roads and other places to improve appearance
  • Favor species with rich fall color and attractive blooms
  • Invite bird watchers, schoolchildren, and church groups

Program Benefits

Resource Management Plan

The primary benefit of enrolling in the Forest Stewardship Program is the development of a long-range plan for managing your forestland. As a participating landowner, you can have a plan prepared by resource agency personnel who know local conditions. An alternative is to have a private natural resources consultant prepare the plan under contract with the Forest Stewardship Program. You can receive up to five person-days of service by agency personnel or receive assistance for payment of a stewardship consultant approved by the state Stewardship Committee.You also are entitled to assistance in updating your plan as long as you actively participate in the program.

Cost-Share Assistance

Forest landowners are eligible for many cost-share programs related to forest management, protection, and enhancement, including reforestation and timber stand improvement. You’ll also learn about other programs that can enhance wildlife habitat, water, or other resources.


After you have made improvements to your forestland, your property will be certified as a Stewardship Forest. You will receive a personal certificate and a large Stewardship Forest sign for display on the property. As a certified forest steward, you will become part of the growing number of landowners recognized for their commitment to the conservation of forest resources.

Model for Exceptional Resource Conservation and Use

Posting the Stewardship Forest sign and promoting the Forest Stewardship Program locally will acquaint people with your conservation efforts. The accomplishments of forest stewards can be a model for other landowners to follow. Pride in ownership is contagious. True stewards serve as an example of what is possible on private lands. Therefore, the progress made on a Stewardship Forest has positive effects on nearby landowners.

Increased Financial Returns

Many landowners can maximize returns from forestland with the aid of professional advice. Forest stewards use proven techniques to increase financial returns while improving the future productivity of the land. Most landowners are concerned with the “bottom line.” They want to know how much a particular practice will cost and whether the returns will be worthwhile. Resource professionals can help you avoid pitfalls by recommending less intensive practices that provide excellent returns without excessive cost. By planning before harvesting or conducting management activities, you can achieve multiple benefits and financial returns from your forestland.


The Forest Stewardship Program is open to any nonindustrial, private landowner with at least 10 acres of forestland. The plan must encompass the entire tract. However, on farmland the recommendations focus on the woodlands, forest edges, and associated clearings.

The Landowner’s Commitments

The multiagency approach of the Forest Stewardship Program, which includes on-site examinations and the preparation of forest stewardship plans, entails a large commitment of time and resources by state and federal agencies. To ensure that tax dollars are spent wisely, the Forest Stewardship Program requires participating landowners to:

  1. Follow their agreed-upon plan
  2. Improve, protect, or enhance the resource areas of their choosing (wildlife, soil and water, timber, or recreation and aesthetics)
  3. Include all forestedland in the stewardship management plan
  4. Participate in the development of the plan by attending meetings with agency professionals (or by appointing a representative to attend) to discuss decisions and limitations and to review the final plan
  5. Abide by state and federal laws and regulations that affect forestry activities.

Requesting Assistance

The Forest Stewardship Program is administered by:

  • North Carolina Division of Forest Resources
  • North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

with technical support and assistance from:

  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Consolidated Farm Services Agency
  • Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • North Carolina Division of Soil and Water Conservation

To learn how to initiate a forest stewardship plan, contact the local representative of one of the agencies listed above or write to: Forest Stewardship Coordinator, N.C. Division of Forest Resources, DENR, 1616 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1616.


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Published in March 2000

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