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
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:

Managing the forest edge

Fall color
Fall color

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:


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.

Practices include:

  1. Vary site preparation techniques to favor species diversity
  2. Plant seedlings in rows that follow the natural contour of the land
  3. Mix the species composition where practical
  4. Vary planting density, leave openings and opt for mixed stands, especially where practical from an economic and soil productivity standpoint
  5. 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
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:

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

Gated road
Gated road

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
rocked road with grass to stabilize

nature trail through boggy area
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:

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.