Forest Stewardship Program (FSP)

Actively managed forests provide wildlife habitat, watershed protection, timber, recreational opportunities and many other benefits for landowners and society.

Authorized by the Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act of 1978, the Forest Stewardship Program provides assistance to owners of forest land and other lands where good stewardship will enhance and sustain multiple forest resources.

A primary focus of FSP is the development of comprehensive, multi-resource management plans that lay out strategies for achieving unique landowner objectives and sustaining forest health and vigor. Forest Stewardship plans help landowners become more active in managing their forests, greatly increasing the likelihood that their forests will remain intact, productive and healthy, and that the social, economic and environmental benefits of these lands will be sustained for future generations.

Participation in FSP is open to non-industrial private forest landowners who are committed to the active management and stewardship of their forested properties for at least ten years. Landowners choose a first and a second priority of management from among the choices of forest management, wildlife habitat improvement, forest watershed management and forest recreation and aesthetics. See How FSP Works to view a description of the management choices.

Landowner Benefits of the Forest Stewardship Program

  • A prepared management plan.
  • Improved income opportunities.
  • Enhancement of wildlife through habitat protection and improvements.
  • Protection from soil erosion.
  • Improved water quality.
  • Knowledge about natural resource management and assistance with many management practices.
  • Restoration and management of wetlands.
  • Recreational opportunities.
  • Recognition of accomplishments with a certificate and sign.

For guidelines relating to Forest Stewardship plan development, see Caring for your Forest with a Forest Stewardship Plan. To find out how you can participate in the Forest Stewardship Program, contact your state forestry agency.

How FSP Works

Courtesy: Kentucky Division of Forestry

State forestry agencies serve as the lead agency in the multiagency FSP partnership. Your state forester will arrange for a forester, wildlife biologist, other natural resources professional or all of the above to meet with you to help prepare a customized forest stewardship plan based on your goals and objectives for the property. On the application, you are asked to choose a first and a second priority of management from among the choices of forest management, fish and wildlife habitat, forest watershed improvement and forest recreation and aesthetics. To help you decide which management option is right for you, descriptions are below.

Forest Management

Forest Management

Forests are the framework upon which all wildlife and other features of the forest depend. Whatever is done to the framework -- the trees -- affects everything else in the forest. A properly-managed forest not only provides timber benefits, but also natural beauty, wildlife, recreation and high-quality water. After determining your personal goals and objectives, the forester will walk over the property with you and examine its features, health and overall site characteristics. Based on this examination and your objectives, the forester will make recommendations on how to manage the forest to best achieve your objectives. As part of this, the management of timber for commercial purposes, protection of water quality, improvement of wildlife habitat and the exploring recreational and aesthetic potential will be blended into the plan by the forester.

Wildlife Habitat Improvement

Wild Turkey

The forest is the home of countless species of wildlife, ranging from deer, squirrel and bear, to butterflies, songbirds and earthworms. Whatever is done to the forest affects these wildlife forms. Each of these species has specific habitat needs and requirements and the requirements among species may differ radically. While old-growth trees are needed by some species; young, developing stands of saplings are needed by others. Depending on individual situations and your objectives, the forest may be managed to benefit specific species. When wildlife habitat improvement is chosen as your primary objective, a wildlife biologist will meet with you and the forester to examine the property. Recommendations may vary from putting up nest boxes to converting fescue fields to warm-season grasses to planting trees. When wildlife habitat improvement is chosen as your first priority, recreation, water quality protection and timber management are still considered but the main emphasis will focus on wildlife habitat improvement.

Forest Watershed Management

Fall Creek Scene

The cleanest, purest water comes from forestland. Leaves on the forest floor act like a sponge to hold rainwater in place and prevent it from running off during periods of high precipitation. Much of the rain soaks into soil, where it is purified and eventually makes its way into the water table. That which does run off into streams does so slowly and with insufficient velocity to muddy our streams.

Forest watershed management, when chosen as your first priority, looks first at protecting the watershed value of the forest. In addition to the forester meeting with you to examine the property, the district conservationist with your county Natural Resources Conservation Service office will join you to be sure forest watershed concerns are addressed. Recreation and aesthetics, wildlife habitat and timber are still addressed, but the primary emphasis will be focused on making sure that your forest watershed is protected.

Forest Recreation and Aesthetics


Forest recreation covers a wide variety of activities including hiking, hunting and fishing, bird watching, camping and picnicking. Aesthetics is simply the natural beauty of the forest. Enjoyment of natural beauty is a recreational pursuit in itself. Being in the woods on a fall day with the leaves in full fall color or on a bright spring morning with the wildflowers in bloom can be some of the most memorable experiences of your life. To many of us, this is the most important function of the forests we own.

When forest recreation and aesthetics are chosen as the your first priority, the district conservationist of your county Natural Resources Conservation Service office will join with the forester to meet with you. Together they will examine the property and give special attention to maintaining or enhancing the value of the forest for your personal recreational and aesthetic interests. Wildlife habitat, forest watershed values and timber management are still addressed, but the primary emphasis will be focused on recreation and aesthetics.

After the Plan

Technical assistance is available to help you implement your plan once it is developed. There are also many cost-share programs to assist you in implementing the recommended management practices. Once you begin implementing the recommendations outlined in your customized plan, you can receive an honorary designation as a "Forest Steward," and your property will receive an honorary designation as a "Stewardship Forest."

Landowners who are already actively managing their forest can enroll their property into the American Tree Farm Program. Contact your state forestry agency for more information.

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