good is a plan if it just sits on a shelf gathering dust? That was
the final destination of many forest management plans written in
The plans, usually timber management plans, were typically written
by foresters who basically told their clients, the owners of private
forest lands, what to do, said Don Hanley, WSU Extension forester.
"If land owners didn't agree with the plan, they didn't implement
to some estimates, more than 50,000 people own 20 acres or more
of private forests in Washington state. About 45 percent of the
nation's forest land—some 354 million acres in all—is in the hands
of non-industrial private forest land owners, according to the U.S.
stewardship plans, the contemporary forest management plan, are
products of the Forest Stewardship Program created by the Cooperative
Forestry Assistance Act of 1988. A primary goal of the program is
the development of comprehensive, multi-resource management plans
that provide landowners with information to manage their properties
for a variety of products and services. The program provides technical
assistance through state forestry agency partners to encourage owners
to develop the plans.
That was a problem. Longtime WSU Extension forestry educator Arno
Bergstrom: "I felt that a lot of our educational efforts were preaching
to the choir. They had all heard it before. How many people were
doing anything? I didn't think there was much impact."
encourage action beyond the classroom, Bergstrom reworked a concept
he imported from Montana to involve owners in the plan-making process.
What evolved was an eight-week short course in which landowners
would learn useful information about their forests, and with guidance
from instructors, also learn how to write their own forest stewardship
"Coached Planning" short course was born.
and a stewardship forester with the DNR, offered the first coached
short course in 1992. Since then, the coaching concept has spread
across the state with classes in session somewhere in the state
about nine months of the year. An average of 200 people complete
the course every year, according to Hanley. The program counts about
collaboration with the DNR continues to this day. "We cannot take
full credit for the success of this program," Hanley said. "This
is truly a forestry team effort." The majority of the funding for
the program comes from the U.S. Forest Service Cooperative Programs
out of Portland.
other things, coached planning participants learn how to monitor
the health of their forests, how to evaluate wildlife use of their
lands, how to improve habitat, and how to protect water resources.
By the time they are done, participants complete a multi- resources
Forest Stewardship Plan for their land. They may submit their plans
for consideration for acceptance by the DNR's Forest Stewardship
with approved plans may qualify for reduced "current use" property
tax rates as well as federal cost-share programs that provide monetary
incentives for such things as pre-commercial thinning, upgrading
of culverts and rehabilitation of sites that have been taken over
by noxious weeds.
"These things have an indirect financial return,"
Bergstrom noted. "On a sizable acreage, the costs can run into
the tens of thousands of dollars."
the financial incentives attract some people to the classes, Bergstrom
believes they are far from the only reason. "I think a lot of
them are lifelong learners. One of the comments I get at the beginning
and end is, 'It's excellent value.' They have experience in their
work lives with continuing education and they look at this class
as a great bargain."
small number of participants in every class don't even own the
requisite five acres to qualify for tax benefits or cost sharing.
"People want to learn, even if they only have an acre," Bergstrom
said. "They want to be stewards of their own property."
he organizes a class, he charges one registration fee for the
entire family. "If a husband, wife, son, and daughter want to
come, I want them all there. I want them working on their plan
has shown that the program is effective. A 1995 study that compared
people who had gone through coached planning with those who had
not—all had plans—found that people who had gone through the class
had done more with their property and planned to do more than
those who hadn't.
is the program so successful?
teach them enough to write their own plan with our coaching,"
Hanley said. "Since it's their plan, they implement it. That's
why it has been so successful."
plans and people who write them come from all walks of life.
"I remember an engineer and a medical doctor who took the class
and authored spectacular plans," Hanley recalled. "We also got
a handwritten plan that was approved from a husband and wife.
The entire plan was handwritten by the wife and she turned it
in at the last session."
Hanley later learned that her husband could neither read nor write.
He came to the class reluctantly, but returned once he saw how
valuable it was. "His wife read all of the documentation and all
of the publications and everything we had," Hanley said. "I asked
them why they did this. They told me they wanted the land to remain
in their family and it was time to document it so that their children
would know what to do."
imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Washington's Forestry
Stewardship Coached Planning program has been adapted in Idaho,
Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, California, Wyoming, and New York.
The approach is also used in New Zealand and Australia.