What is the role of LSSI in helping manage/restore the oak-dominated forests in southern Illinois?
Stewardship Cluster App (see image on right)
Identifying priority areas
In order to focus conservation efforts, eight, high priority forest blocks were identified. These areas, called Forest Stewardship Clusters, are 7,000 or more acres, have high biodiversity, and include a matrix of public and private land ownership. Together, these clusters cover almost 120,000 acres!
Combining regional resources to work in priority areas
Given that conservation partners in the region, (e.g., U.S. Forest Service, Illinois Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy), have similar goals, LSSI is developing and facilitating management efforts that pool resources and expertise AND cross land ownership boundaries.
To help familiarize private landowners with specific forest management techniques, LSSI’s goal is to have at least one demonstration area within a short drive for most landowners. These areas would be designed as self-guided tours with interpretive signage. The first demonstration area is located at Trail of Tears State Forest.
Data sharing and management
LSSI is pioneering a new, cloud-based data and information system that will provide all partners with the same, easy to access biological data. This kind of comprehensive region-wide information has the potential to revolutionize the process of identifying problems, planning management action, and measuring conservation success.
What is the role of Forest Stewardship Plans in managing/restoring oak dominated forests in southern Illinois?
Forest Stewardship Plans
A forest stewardship plan is intended to provide guidance for landowners to better manage the natural resources occurring on that property. The District Forester can write the plan, or it can be written by a private consulting forester. But the district forester must review all plans for approval. Timber management, water quality, soil protection, wildlife habitat, aesthetic values and recreation are all topics that should be covered in a plan:
Identifying the trees in your woods
What is in your woods exactly and how can you manage your timber stand to improve its quality for timber production and wildlife. Forest Stewardship plans provide a detailed inventory of woods and provide equally detailed stand improvement recommendations with a timetable.
Managing for sustainable production of timber
Wood demand is estimated to increase by 25% in the next 25 years. And decreased harvesting from Federal land is shifting demand for supply to private land. Forest Stewardship plans help landowners plan sustainable timber harvests that will also improve the quality of the forest ecosystem.
Maintaining and improving habitat for a diversity of birds and other wildlife
If your woods support rare, threatened, or endangered habitat types and species, then you will want to know how to manage for them. Your Forest Stewardship Plan will identify presence/absence as well as likely occurrence of a rare plant species, for example, and provide guidance on how to manage for it.
Are there tax incentives for having a Forest Stewardship Plan?
With the passage of the Illinois Forestry Development Act (FDA), the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/10-150) was amended to provide a tax incentive for the Illinois timber grower. Specifically, in all southern Illinois counties, any land being managed under a forestry management plan will be considered as ‘other farmland’ and be valued at 1/6 of its equalized assessed value based on cropland. Once your plan is approved, the District Forestry Office will process your Certification into the FDA program. The landowner need do nothing else to get the forestry tax assessment. However, plan recommendations must be followed as described in the plan or the plan can be removed from the FDA program.
Are there funding opportunities that will offset out-of-pocket costs for implementing the Forest Stewardship plan?
A certified Forest Stewardship Plan makes the landowner eligible for a variety of cost-share opportunities to help offset the cost implementing recommended management actions. These sources of cost-share can include the Forestry Development Act (when available), the NRCS EQIP program (when available) and the American Tree Farm Program.