Landowners in priority areas can apply for funds to have a consulting forester write a new Forest Stewardship Plan for your property. You can also upgrade an existing management plan to meet the standards of the Common Waters Fund and the state Forest Stewardship Program. To accomplish this, the Common Waters Fund is partnering with the New Jersey Forest Service, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Division of Lands and Forests, and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry so that landowners will be enrolled in their state’s Forest Stewardship Program when their plans are approved.
The Common Waters Fund will reimburse landowners for the approximate full cost of having a Forest Stewardship Plan written (or upgraded) by a qualified consulting forester. In addition, the Fund will pay an additional per-acre fee to cover the costs of conducting a rigorous stand inventory. There is a small application fee, based on acreage, to help cover program administration and monitoring costs.
Landowners meeting the basic eligibility criteria can apply online, at your local Common Waters Fund Coordinator office, or via mail. Your application will be ranked according to the Fund’s selection criteria, and if approved, you will sign a contract to have your plan completed or upgraded within one year. Fund administrators will direct you to a list of approved foresters from which you can choose to write your plan. They will work with you to assess the condition of your forest and make recommendations based on your land ownership objectives. When your plan is finished, you will submit it to the appropriate regional forester for approval, then to the Common Waters Fund to receive your payment. It is your responsibility to pay your forester for the plan. Your forester may have their own fee schedule for plan writing, but the Common Waters Fund will only reimburse you at the CWF-approved rates for your state, plus the inventory fees.
The time commitment for maintenance and implementation of these Forest Stewardship Plans and your property’s forestland use is 10 years. You will have to refund any incentive payments you received, plus a 10% penalty fee, if you change the land use from forest or voluntarily relinquish control or title to the land and the new owner(s) do not agree in writing to properly maintain or follow the Forest Stewardship Plan for the remainder of its 10-year life span.
A variety of other programs offer benefits to forest landowners for sustainably managing their land, including tax relief, financial assistance, forest products certification, and access to ecosystem services markets. You may use your Common Waters Fund Forest Stewardship Plan for enrollment in these programs if you meet the eligibility requirements and your forester is able to incorporate the other programs’ requirements into your plan.