There are over 46,500 landowners in Massachusetts who own 10 or more acres of land. Every day, the number of landowners increases and ownerships get smaller as people sub-divide and sell land. As land ownerships continue to get smaller, it becomes increasingly important to consider individual ownerships as a part of a larger whole and to work with neighbors to achieve mutual goals.
Each ownership fits together like pieces of a puzzle. Many landowner goals (e.g., improving wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities) require area much larger than typical ownership sizes. Therefore, knowing the resources (habitats, water, trails, protected property) around your property can help describe the role your land plays in the landscape and, in doing so, help inform your management decisions. In addition, coordinating management with a neighbor can lead to an impact larger than a single landowner can achieve alone.
Wildlife management provides and excellent example of looking beyond your stone walls. Below are the home ranges for a few of our wildlife species:
Black bear - 15 mile radius
White-tailed deer - 2 to 3 sq mi.
Fisher - 4 to 7 mile radius
Because these animals use areas much larger than most ownerships, the habitat for these species is dependent on the forest management and land protection decisions of many landowners who make up the home range for these animals.
Likewise, most recreational pursuits can be improved by working with surrounding landowners to increase the area in which to recreate. Connecting trails is a great example.
Working with your neighbors to implement forest management also has many advantages, including increasing the volume of wood being sold, which can increase the amount someone bids for your wood. Coordinated timber sales also provide the opportunity to share stream crossings to improve water quality or share landings (roadside areas where logs are pulled to for pick-up and delivery to a mill) to reduce the impact of the harvest.
Finding maps of your town, such as can be found in a town open space plan, can be a good start to learning about your landscape. Speaking with a licensed forester is an excellent way to learn more about your landscape and explore management options. Learning more about your landscape also means talking with neighbors to share information, find out what they're doing, or consider some joint activities.
The next time you need to make a decision about your land, look beyond your stone walls to see how your land fits into the landscape and therefore how your decisions will affect your surroundings.