Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review - A Landowner's Guide to Managing Your Woods

One of the books I was most interested in picking up at the 2012 Mother Earth News Fair was A Landowner's Guide to Managing Your Woods: How to Maintain a Small Acreage for Long-Term Health, Biodiversity, and High-Quality Timber Production by Anne Larkin Hansen, Mike Severson, and Dennis L. Waterman. I had heard Hansen speak at the 2011 fair, and really enjoyed what she had to say. The book had been on my wish list ever since, but I had not yet picked it up. When I saw that she was doing a book signing at the 2012 fair, I knew the time was right to get my copy. Unfortunately I was busy during the signing, but Andrea was able to make time to buy the book and chat with the author for a few minutes.

I made the mistake of basing my expectations of the book on the workshop I had attended, and not the blurb on the book or reviews of it. I was looking forward to a book that focused on things like trail building, wildlife habitat construction, etc. While those were covered, briefly, the primary topic was managing a forest for timber production, or at the very least for maximizing profits. I continue to find myself frustrated by works that are based on the assumption that profit is a primary motivator for most people. While the premise is likely true, it leaves the rest of us searching for material that actually focuses on the important things in life. I suppose I can't really blame an author for basing the material on what will appeal to most people, as that is the way to maximize sales, and therefore profit :-)

I did gain quite a bit of knowledge from the book, just not on the topics I had hoped for. I now realize the importance of doing an inventory of our woods and developing a forest plan. I had naively believed that the best thing for our situation would be to simply let nature manage the woods. Unfortunately, that isn't going to result in a natural forest, though, since it has already been altered so much by logging, farming, etc. If I want a more natural woodlot I will have to begin by undoing many of the unnatural things done in the past.

Thanks to the book I am now also considering hiring a forester to do a management plan. I'm also much more open to the idea of eventually selling some timber. I should give one word of caution, however. Some reviewers were annoyed by the author's repeated suggestion to hire a forester. As one so aptly put it, you don't really need a book to tell you to hire a forester. Can you imagine buying a booking on DIY plumbing, only to find that the most common suggestion is to hire a professional plumber?

Even though the book turned out not to be what I hoped for, I'm still glad I read it. Whether I would recommend it someone else depends on his/her goals. There is certainly a lot of information in the book, but not everyone landowner will find it useful.

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