About the Program
The objective of the Woodland Steward Program is to engage private woodland owners and inspire them to learn about the substantial economic, social, and ecological contributions their forestlands make; and to retain their land as forest and manage it sustainably.
The Northern Forest region is experiencing a rapid turnover in private forest ownership. While the sale of large parcels by industrial owners has received most of the attention, there has been a quieter – but equally important – change in the ownership of smaller woodlands (lots from 10 to 1,000 acres in size). Often located in communities with higher population densities, small woodlands provide clean water, wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation and numerous other public benefits. Such woodlands also provide significant volumes of wood to the forest products industry, and are the foundation of Maine’s tourism industry.
There are currently more than 120,000 small woodland owners in Maine, and two-thirds of these woodlands are owned by individuals 55 years old or older. Forty percent is held by individuals 65 and older. This aging landowner base indicates that many of the small woodlots in Maine will change hands in the next two decades.
Accompanying the generational transfer of land is the decline of state and federal assistance to small woodland owners. This loss has created a substantial “information gap” that has contributed to some owners making decisions that are neither in their own best interests, nor in the long-term interests of the forest.
To help these new owners—and current owners—become better stewards of their lands, the New England Forestry Foundation, Maine TREE Foundation, and Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine have collaborated to develop the “Woodland Steward Program.” This program is also a result of generous support from the Horizon Foundation, Davis Conservation Foundation and Natural Resources Conservation Service.