With social-distancing guidelines in place across the US, many landowners have some extra time on their hands. If you want to use this time to focus on your land, you’re in the right place.
We sat down (virtually, of course,) with forester Stephen Lloyd of the Florida Forest Service to hear what he recommends landowners do to manage and protect their land during the current COVID-19 outbreak.
**Keep in mind the following recommendations are not meant to replace advice or guidance from your local forestry professional and may not apply to every landowner. When in doubt, speak to your own local forester.
1. Walk your Property… with your Goals in Mind
When was the last time you walked your property and thought about your short-term and long-term goals for your land? If it’s been a while, you might be surprised to discover that what you want for your land has changed.
Life circumstances such as a new job, retirement, children moving away (or back home!), a sickness or death in the family, and the local or global economy can all impact how you see your land, and what you hope to get out of it.
Take this time to walk your property while thinking about what you would like to see happen with your land in 5, 10, or 25 years, and begin to mentally map out the next steps.
- Increase the amount of wildlife on the land
- Maintain the natural aesthetic & privacy
- Protect critical habitat for threatened & endangered species
- Generate income
- Pass land down to future generations
- Use land for leisure activities (hunting, fishing, hiking, foraging, etc.)
- Mitigate wildfire risk / damage from pests or natural disasters
2. General Upkeep & Repairs
While you’re on your property, bring a notebook and/or camera and look for work that needs to be done. This could include:
- Repairs to things like fences or culverts or areas beginning to erode.
- Upkeep to maintain an existing fire break
- Upkeep/maintenance for other management practices you’ve done in the past
- Update/refresh property line signage, markers and blazes
- Replace fencing with wildlife friendly fencing that meets USDA guidelines
- Maintenance to walking trails
Do what you can to maintain your woodland while practicing safe social distancing. This may mean waiting until you can get help from others and/or a forestry professional to complete the work but taking inventory and creating a plan will get you one step closer to having the healthiest land possible.
Stephen also recommends taking photos of your land each year to document its condition. Should a natural disaster strike, these “before” photos will come in handy for insurance, taxes, and applications for recovery funding.
3. Contact Your Local Forester
Due to the current health risk, local forestry professionals are spending more time in their offices than ever. This is a great opportunity to give them a call—they will be happy to answer your questions and help in any way they can.
In some states, visits by a forester can still take place if there is access to property and if the landowner is comfortable not being present.
If you don’t yet have a land management plan, now is a great time to get started on one by talking to a forester about your goals. They can point you in the direction of resources such as cost-share opportunities for you to research while you wait for an on-site visit.
If you have a land management plan that needs updating, contact your local forestry professional to discuss making changes to your plan. These changes may have to wait until they can first do an on-site visit with you, but in the meantime they can suggest ideas to consider or share educational resources with you.
On the other hand, if you have a plan that matches your current goals, you may be able to start doing some of the work outlined in your plan on your own. Before starting this work, we highly recommend speaking with your forester to make sure they agree that it is a good time to do the work, and support you doing it on your own.
**Remember, don’t take on work that requires you to use tools or chemicals you’re unfamiliar with, or that might cause you to overexert yourself. Forest management is a long-term process and some management practices are best left to a professional.
4. Tune into Online Workshops
As the timeline for social distancing continues to grow, many organizations are opting to move in-person events to an online format. This means you can participate in events that
would otherwise have been too far away to attend in person!
Keep your eyes peeled for online workshops and webinars that can help you learn something new about your land! We’ll keep a running list of those we know about below. If you hear of an event that should be on this list, please email us the details at email@example.com to be added below.
April 14-28 (My Blue Mountains Woodland)
beginning April 21 (Partnership for Forestry Education)
April 23 (University of Wisconsin Stevens Point)
Women’s Chainsaw Safety Fundamentals interactive webinar April 25 (Forest Stewards Guild)
Better Birding in Your Backyard and Beyond webinar April 27 (Vermont Fish & Wildlife)
The Radical Forest Manager webinar April 28 (Audubon Vermont)
2 Critters/1 Workshop: Fire ants, Armadillos workshop April 30 (Clemson Cooperative Extension)
Backyard Woods Course May 1-June 30 (Vermont Urban & Community Forestry)
Know Your Trees webinar May 19 (Vermont Woodlands Association)
Ethan Tapper with Vermont FPR) ongoing (hosted by county forester
Forestcast Podcast (inside the USDA Forest Service)
5. Estate Planning
In uncertain times, many people will start to think about the “what if’s” in life. What you want to happen to your land when you’re gone is an important question to answer for yourself and your family. You may want to sell your woodland, donate all or part of it, divide it among heirs, etc.
Many landowners intend to pass down their land to children or other family members with hopes that it will remain in the family for decades to come. While this option may seem like a simple one, there are still many things to consider and plan for to make sure your loved ones can keep the land and still have the means to cover the estate taxes.
The American Forest Foundation has an amazing collection of information around estate planning on MyLandPlan.org, including:
- The first steps of estate planning
- Land appraisal — should you have your land appraised and how to do it
- Estate planning tools & professionals who can help
- Finding an estate planner
- Understanding the value of your land
- What is a “trust”?
- Tips for sharing your plan with your family
- Worksheets to help you plan for the future of your land
You can access these resources without a My Land Plan account.
6. Review Tax Guidelines
Looking for a bit of light reading? This is an excellent opportunity to make sure you are prepared for any timber sales you see in your future. Do some online research to better understand the tax guidelines around timber sales and other forest management activities you may be planning.
Here are a few helpful resources for making sense of tax laws for landowners:
- Forest Landowners Guide to the Federal Income Tax
- Understanding Your Taxes (MyLandPlan.org)
- Upcoming webinar: Income Tax & Timber Sales
7. Start Using My Land Plan
While you’re soaking up all the fantastic information on MyLandPlan.org, why not take advantage of the free tool as well? My Land Plan is a great place to organize your thoughts, goals, activities, photos, and documents related to your land.
8. Look into Stewardship Programs
Many of us are finding ourselves in front of a screen more than usual these days. While you’re online, here are some great online resources for identifying programs and opportunities to talk to your forester about:
- American Tree Farm System (ATFS)
- Forest Stewardship Program (FSP)
- Cost-share programs you might qualify for
If you’re already participating in FSP or ATFS and are looking to re-certify, give your forester a call to see how they might be able to help you.
9. Learn to Identify Invasive Species
Learning to identify invasive species on your land is a great management activity you can do on your own. Online tools like are available to help you with this, but you can also do a Google search of invasive species in your area before heading out, and take photos of anything you’re unsure about to send to your forester or research later.
10. Enjoy your Property!
This recommendation goes without saying—use this opportunity to spend more time enjoying the beauty and fresh air your land provides! Because we want to inspire you to think outside the box when it comes to exploring and enjoying your land, we’re working on a list of FUN activities to do on your land while practicing social-distancing.
Follow us on or check back to regularly to see this post when it’s ready.
PS — a quick note about what NOT to do at this time...
Do not request face-to-face contact with contractors. Forestry can be an industry where agreements are often still made on the front porch over a glass of iced tea. For now, resist the urge to socialize and only communicate with foresters and contractors by phone or email. If state orders allow and you are comfortable with it, maintain social distancing by letting them walk the property on their own.
Do not agree to an unplanned timber sale. Like every industry, forestry has its share of cold callers and scammers who will take advantage of fear and uncertainty in the market. Stick to your management plan and work only with reputable contractors and buyers vetted by your forester.
Do not overexert yourself. While it might be tempting to use this time to get a lot of real work done on your land, Stephen and his colleagues point out that it’s not worth risking your health and safety (and putting unnecessary strain on emergency services) by doing too much on your own.
What have you been doing to enjoy and improve your woodland while social distancing? We'd love to hear from you!