Professional Planning for Landowners

Forest Stewardship Plans
Forest Stewardship Logo A written plan is the foundation for good forest management and accomplishing your unique goals for your forest.  Investing in a Forest Stewardship Plan will provide you with increased environmental, economic, and enjoyment benefits as you manage your land.  Forest Stewardship Plans in Michigan are written by professional foresters and wildlife biologists and then reviewed by DNR Service Foresters for meeting Program standards.  The United States Forest Service has published guidelines for a comprehensive yet flexible Forest Stewardship Plan so you can be assured that your unique plan will be a quality tool that helps you to manage your forest according to your own goals and values.  Participation in the Program is voluntary, and landowners are not required to implement their plan.

Forest Stewardship Program in Michigan - Video

A Landowner's Story

Financial Assistance
The Michigan Forest Stewardship Program provides financial assistance through grants to the certified Plan Writers to help lower the cost of developing a Forest Stewardship Plan. The program provides only a partial cost share, and the landowner should expect to pay for a significant percentage of the total cost. The cost share formula for Fiscal Year 2016 is "$225 per plan plus $0.50 per acre up to a maximum of $2,500".

All private nonindustrial forests are eligible to participate in the Forest Stewardship Program.  This includes forest land owned by individuals, families, groups, associations, corporations, and Indian tribes.  There is not a minimum or maximum acreage requirement for the program.  However, starting in October 2014, forests must be at least 20 acres in order to be eligible for financial assistance.

Planning Process

  1. Interview Several Plan Writers.  Plan quality and even plan content can vary so please call at least three Plan Writers to ask about their prices and the contents of their plans.  Feel free to ask for references and an example plan so you can review one of their previous forest management plans before you hire them. 
  2. Hire a Plan Writer.  You and your selected Plan Writer agree on the total cost for developing the plan.  The Program does not determine plan development fees so your cost can vary widely between Plan Writers.  Your Plan Writer may have a grant from the Program to offer a partial cost share to reduce your cost.  Professional foresters frequently travel several counties away from their office so do not feel obligated to hire the closest Plan Writer.   
  3. Discuss Your Goals.  Your goals for your forest are the foundation for your Forest Stewardship Plan.  Discuss your general goals and specific objectives with your Plan Writer so they understand what you would like to do with your forest over the next ten to twenty years.
  4. Forest Assessment.  Your Plan Writer will personally inspect your land and do a comprehensive resource assessment of your forest.  Most Plan Writers do not conduct a formal forest inventory with intensive data collection, but this may be worth your extra investment in some circumstances (establish your tax basis for a timber sale, prepare for an impending harvest, etc).
  5. Plan Development.  After your Plan Writer has discussed your goals with you and assessed your forest, they will return to their office to write the Forest Stewardship Plan.  The research and writing process may take several weeks or even months so discuss the expected timeline with your Plan Writer.
  6. Plan Review by Landowner.  When your Plan Writer has a finished draft of your Forest Stewardship Plan, they will send it to you to review and suggest any corrections or modifications.
  7. Plan Review by DNR Service Forester.  After you and your Plan Writer have developed your Forest Stewardship Plan, your Plan Writer will send it to the nearest DNR Service Forester for their review.  Service Foresters check to ensure that all plans meet USFS guidelines and standards for the Program.  If a plan is missing an important element, the Service Forester may ask your Plan Writer to modify the plan.
  8. Plan Approval.  After confirming that your Forest Stewardship Plan meets all Program requirements, the Service Forester signs the plan to approve it and initiate the cost share payment to the Plan Writer if applicable.
  9. Plan Implementation.  The most important step in the process is the implementation of your Forest Stewardship Plan.  Once you have learned more about your land by reading your plan, head out into your forest for some hard work and fun times implementing your plan!
  10. Plan Monitoring.  The Forest Stewardship Program occasionally interviews landowners to see how they are implementing their plans.  Participation in the Program and implementation of the plans are voluntary, but hopefully beneficial to the landowner.  Landowners should also monitor and adapt their plans as needed during the ten to twenty year planning period of their Forest Stewardship Plan.

Example Plans

Some actual Forest Stewardship Plans are available on the Outreach and Education Grants page. These plans are developed for municipal forest land (schools, counties, townships, cities) but they serve as examples for what a plan might look like for private forest land too. These plans are for large forests or public ownership and may be more complex than a typical plan for a 40 acre forest owned by an individual or family.


DNR Forest Stewardship Coordinator
Southern Lower Peninsula
Mike Smalligan, Lansing

DNR Service Foresters
Western Upper Peninsula
Gary Willis, Baraga

Eastern Upper Peninsula
Ernie Houghton, Escanaba

Northern Lower Peninsula
Mike Hanley, Haslett

Additional FSP Information
FSP Home
Find a Certified Plan Writer
Information for Plan Writers
Outreach and Education Grants