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New book might help turn large lot into woods, nature area

July 10, 2007|By JONATHAN S. KAYS / Extension Specialist in Natural Resources

People who buy a large acreage lot with or without trees, along with their home are commonly faced with questions they find hard to answer.

If most of the property is cleared, they have to mow acres of grass which is time consuming and costly.

What is the best way to transition an area of lawn into a forest?

If I plant trees, what trees should I plant and how do I protect them from deer browsing? If the property has a lot of woods, the question may be what should I do to be a good steward of the woods?

What can I do to improve wildlife habitat, create a trail, help improve water quality, decide what trees to cut for firewood, or make other informed decisions.

Don't feel alone. Landowners with fewer than 10 acres of woods own more than two-thirds of the forest properties in the mid-Atlantic area, and the number of owners is increasing as larger properties are fragmented.

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Therefore, while the properties may be smaller, each landowner can make a significant contribution with better use of their property.

Owners of more than 10 acres of woods can contact a state forester who will develop a forest stewardship plan for their property.

The plan will help them set objectives, and give them an inventory of the property as well as make recommendations for practices to reach their forestry, wildlife, water quality and heritage goals.

A newly published manual can help landowners with fewer than 10 acres.

Entitled "The Woods in Your Backyard: Learning to Create and Enhance Natural Areas Around Your Home," this 138-page color, self-assessment manual was specifically developed to help folks with up to 10 acres of land but who have with no knowledge of forestry or wildlife.

The book will help landowners turn lawn into forest or enhance existing natural areas.

It suggests that the landowner look at their property as three parts: 1.) intensive use areas with buildings and/or formal landscaping; 2.) intermediate areas such as lawn and pasture; and 3.) natural areas such as existing woods or unmowed areas.

Are there intermediate areas that can be turned to natural areas by planting trees or letting native growth take over? In the existing natural areas how can I improve wildlife habitat or improve its enjoyment for the family?

The manual uses the case study of the Nelson family to help identify a landowner's interests in the land, draw a map, inventory the property, apply ecological principles, and choose land management techniques. The manual also provides a primer on how to identify trees and deal with invasive species and wildlife damage.

More information on the manual and free online resources developed to supplement the manual are available from the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension at www.naturalresources.umd.edu/Backyard.cfm

The manual is available for $18 from the Natural Resources Agricultural Engineering Service at www.nraes.org

Jonathan S. Kays is based at the Western Maryland Research & Education Center near Keedysville.

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