Improve your forest one tree at a time

URBANA, Ill. – Buying and maintaining forested land can be daunting if landowners don’t know how to manage it. Fortunately, a new University of Illinois outreach program is here to help.

“We’re giving landowners tools to understand the science behind forest management. So, if they do want to manage their forests, they're just not going to go and indiscriminately cut trees. Instead, they’ll understand there's a methodology to improving your forest over time,” says Chris Evans, forestry research specialist in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences and University of Illinois Extension.

Evans was recently awarded a three-year grant from the USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program to educate Southern Illinois landowners on forestry practices. Each year, 20-25 landowners will form a cohort, learning directly from forestry experts and peers on forest management best practices.

“We’ll do traditional instruction, but then we'll also have hands-on experiential opportunities where they may go out and actually be on a prescribed fire, or they may do a thinning or an inventory with a forester and walk through the forest,” Evans says. “Finally, we're working with experienced forest landowners, people who have been active in forestry in the region, and having them serve as mentors for these new landowners. We're building relationships so landowners have people to go to and learn from even outside the scope of the project.”

The definition of a “new” landowner is fairly loose. Evans says anyone who bought forested property in the last 10 years is eligible to apply to the program, as long as they live south of Interstate 64 in Illinois. And if you purchased land more than a decade ago but never engaged in active forest management, you can still apply.

Evans says the program will deliver relevant skills and confidence in landowners, but the larger goal is ensuring the health of the forest.

“There are so many benefits of forest management to production,” he says. “Not only timber production, but forest health and wildlife conservation. There's a ton of reasons people should engage in forest management.”

Landowners can learn more and apply online The program, which carries a $50 fee, will start in mid-spring. Interested landowners should contact Chris Evans at with questions.

Read more from the College of ACES

WRITER: Lauren Quinn, Media Communications Specialist, College of ACES
SOURCE: Christopher Evans, Forestry Extension and Research Specialist & Interim Master Naturalist Coordinator

ABOUT EXTENSION: Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.