Recreation and aesthetics
Many landowners do not realize that they can simultaneously manage their forest for profit, wildlife habitat, investment, recreation and beauty. In fact, properly planned forestry activities can enhance visual appearance, improve recreational opportunities and sustain and increase wildlife populations.
Enhancing visual appearance
|Wildflowers in harvest opening|
Integrating forest management for scenic beauty and diversity can be viewed as landscaping on a grand scale. It is the arrangement of sizes, colors, textures and form across your forest.
Protecting, shaping and creating open spaces
It is preferable to protect and manage existing openings rather than to create new openings from scratch. However, large tracts of similar age or species can be made more diverse by creating openings. They can enhance views, improve wildlife habitat and increase plant diversity.
Maintenance activities include:
- Mechanical clearing: periodically mowing or discing strips on an alternating two to three year cycle keeps woody vegetation in check. However, mowing should be restricted in the spring to allow ground nesting wildlife to rear their young without disturbance
- Herbicide control: using selective herbicides to maintain the species composition of the opening. A legally-labeled, safe and effective herbicide that is known to control the targeted species should be selected
- Controlled burning: prescribed or controlled burnings should be conducted at two to seven year intervals, based on a cycle compatible with wildlife, aesthetics and timber objectives
- Farming: while farming techniques maintain fields and open spaces, edge treatments can be modified or intensified to meet wildlife, aesthetic and diversity objectives
- Timber harvesting: thinning young trees or harvesting mature trees creates openings and dramatically changes the forest landscape. Your plan should lay out the timber sale area, log decks, skid trails, roads and accumulation areas to match your aesthetic objectives
- Controlled grazing: to control growth in pastures and fenced clearings, supervised livestock grazing can be used
Managing the forest edge
Minimizing the contrast between the opening and the forest is the primary goal in managing aesthetics on the forest edge. It defines the shape and texture of the forest setting. A soft transition from the low vegetation of the opening to shrubs and then to taller trees is desired. Considerations include:
- Create or maintain wavy edges with indentations to improve visual diversity
- Introduce irregularity to straight forest edges
- Establish or maintain irregular outlying clumps of trees to create a natural appearance of the forest edge
- Favor a mixture of hardwood and conifer species for variety of the edge
- Retain or establish trees and shrubs of varied shape, form, flower or foliage color
These activities set the direction, shape and appearance of the ensuing stand. Reforestation is an opportunity to establish attractive, diverse forest edges. Alignment and spacing of planted trees and the intensity of site preparation and competition control create different looks.
- Vary site preparation techniques to favor species diversity
- Plant seedlings in rows that follow the natural contour of the land
- Mix the species composition where practical
- Vary planting density, leave openings and opt for mixed stands, especially where practical from an economic and soil productivity standpoint
- Establish or protect streamside management zones to enhance water quality, provide wildlife habitat and scenic diversity
Controlled or prescribed burning
|Permanent fire break between
hardwood and pine stands
Burning is an inexpensive tool to manage some thick barked fire-tolerant tree species. It is an often overlooked opportunity to impact the visual diversity of the landscape.
Controlled burning creates an open stand and stimulates the growth of many fire enhanced flowers and legumes. With aesthetics as a consideration:
- Leave unburned islands around critical habitat or highly-valued areas
- Level and re-seed plowed ftrelines with scenic and wildlife-friendly plant mixtures
- Mimic a natural transition or edge around the burned area by curving the firelines
Improving recreational opportunities
Many people enjoy hiking, bird watching, hunting, camping, picnicking, picking berries and just being in the great outdoors, but the majority of land suitable for outdoor recreation is privately owned. Some owners open their lands up to the public, while others restrict the use of their land.
Controlling public access
This can be managed in several ways.
Open public use requires no effort. Preferably, you should require verbal or written permission from recreationists, but this is difficult to enforce. Uncontrolled public use often decreases the quality of recreational opportunities available to you or your friends.
Restrict access to family, friends, neighbors and responsible recreationists who ask permission. This requires that the land be posted and/or that you issue guest permits. The obvious advantages of posting and granting written permission are better control of activities on your land and reduced abuse of your property.
Lease your land for recreational access. Landowners who lease recreational rights usually charge at least enough to pay their property taxes. Often the lessee posts the land, polices trespassers, maintains roads, trails and gates and picks up litter.
Permit daily use for a fee. Daily written permits are issued by the owner. This is often used by owners of hunting and fishing preserves, campgrounds and waterfowl impoundments.
Form a cooperative with neighbors. Landowner cooperatives build a sense of community among neighbors with similar recreational goals. The acres entered into the cooperative can be for personal enjoyment or made available to the public through one of the methods above.
Constructing roads and trails
|rocked road with grass to stabilize|
|nature trail through boggy area
Correct construction of road and trails is essential for timber, wildlife, scenic beauty or recreation. Roads should be built with proper drainage and adequate slope and grade to minimize erosion and maintenance. Roads and trails should be posted and gated to deter trespassing.
Roads and trails provide access for harvesting timber, monitoring the growth and health of your forest, exercising, recreation, education and observing nature. Well planned roads or trails provide low-cost access and require minimal maintenance.
The first step is to pre-plan the road or trail using aerial photographs, topographic maps, field maps, and personal knowledge of the property. Try to avoid areas with wet soils; frequent flooding; unstable or highly erosive soils; steep slopes; hazards, such as cliffs and ledges; locations requiring expensive bridges and culverts; environmentally sensitive areas; and high maintenance areas, such as heavily vegetated areas requiring constant mowing or pruning.
For best results:
- Manage roadsides with perennial vegetation to enhance wildlife, visual quality and erosion prevention
- Plan road placement to minimize the number and extent of roads and skid trails
- Keep slopes below 10 percent grade to minimize erosion and maintenance
- Expand openings adjacent to roads (daylighting) to enhance plant diversity and for rapid drying of the road surface
- Place roads and trails on the contour, taking advantage of natural curves within the landscape
- Develop narrow paths into environmentally sensitive areas, instead of roads or major trails
- Surface heavily used roads with low-cost native or natural materials, such as wood chips, bark or mulch
- Vary the direction of the road or trail for variety, points of interpretive interest and to maximize users' exposure to natural features, water bodies and vegetative changes.
- Provide trail markers, benches, and picnic tables to increase the enjoyment of recreational trails and roads.
Scenic beauty and recreational opportunities can be enhanced by good forest management. Public access to your property can be controlled by providing a well-designed road and trail system.