In forested regions of the state some landowners desire to implement forest management practices on their RIM easements. Forest Stewardship Plans (aka Woodland Stewardship Plans) are a commonly used method whereby a qualified plan writer provides management recommendations to landowners for appropriate management actions to ensure a healthy forest and are based on landowner goals. The property for which the FSP is being written is mapped into management units based upon ecological conditions. Generally, a menu of management options is proposed for each management unit. These recommendations can range from clear-cut to do nothing. Although a range of management recommendations provides useful information it also complicates giving blanket approval for FSPs on land encumbered by a RIM easement. Consequently, having a FSP does not grant permission to implement practice recommendations without pre-approval. As a safety measure landowners will be required to sign a document recognizing that approval is required prior to practice implementation. Because of the nature of the easement and the restrictions placed by several funding sources any management actions that are implemented MUST be for habitat management purposes and must not undermine the purposes for which the easement was acquired. Maximizing timber harvest or economic gain alone is not sufficient reason to allow harvest. However, if the harvest is justifiable as a habitat management practice economic gain is not prohibited. 

For forested easements a new or updated Forest Stewardship Plan will be required if the landowner wishes to conduct forest management practices. The plan shall be written by a qualified Forest Stewardship Plan Writer following DNR guidelines for plan content and must be registered with the DNR for parcels greater than 20 acres. FSPs should be completed concurrently with or after the RIM easement has been recorded. The landowner must sign an acknowledgement form stating that they have read both the conservation easement and FSP and that the terms of the easement take precedence over the FSP and further acknowledge that the FSP does not provide authorization to implement management practices without an approved Action Plan.


  1. Forest Stewardship Plans

    If a landowner intends to implement land management practies on forested land withing a RIM Easement a new or updated FSP is required at the time of enrolling into a conservation easement. 

    1. We strongly suggest that the plan writer coordinate with the plan reviewer prior to plan finalization and DNR registration.
    2. The FSP should state that the land is enrolled into a conservation easement.
  2. Districts should ask landowners, at the time of application, if they have a FSP or are intending to get one. If so, obtain a copy for your files and send a copy to BWSR Easement Section in St Paul. 
  3. Have each landowner with forested land greater than 20 acres sign the RIM-FSP Acknowledgement Form even if they do not have or intend to get an FSP.
  4. Action Plans

    Prior to implementation of major actions, the landowner must submit to the SWCD and receive prior approval of an Action Plan. The Action Plan is a brief document that tells us who, what, where, when, why, and how and includes a map showing the area to be treated and access routes. The Action Plan must follow proper BMPs. The intent is that this is a brief document that provides sufficient specific information so that an action can be approved. These plans should be written by a natural resources professional who has knowledge of the techniques being implemented. A sample Action Plan is provided in the Easement Forms section on the BWSR web site. The Action Plan writer is not required to use the form, but the elements must be incorporated into any plan submitted for review.

    Major actions are defined as anything except the following: 
    •    Invasive species control
    •    Removal of dead or downed timber
    •    Maintenance of existing trails. New trails and trail widening require an action plan.
    •    Cutting up to 5 cords of firewood for personal use annually. Higrading is not allowed.
    •    Temporary hunting blinds
    •    Authorized maintenance of existing water control structures
    •    Removal of beaver dams

    Any management actions will be required to follow the “Sustaining Minnesota Forest Resources: Voluntary Site-Level Forest Management Guidelines for Landowners, Loggers and Resource Managers”  BMPs. Action Plans should state that BMPs will be followed.

  5. Action Plan review, approval, and documentation

    Action Plans should be reviewed promptly at the time of submission. The intent for review at this point is to make sure that the proposed actions are consistent with the purposes and intent of the RIM easement. Actions should be clearly defined and unambiguous to prevent future problems with easement violations. Actions must follow BMPs and the actions themselves or ancillary actions (for instance a temporary logging road) should be done in a manner that minimizes negative impacts to habitat and water quality, must not negatively impact Threatened or Endangered species and must follow all laws and regulations. This review should investigate the details, if necessary, as approval will give the landowner the right to implement the action. We want to clearly understand the action and its outcome/consequences to keep the landowner and ourselves out of future conflict over inappropriate or poorly executed implementation.

    Upon approval complete the following:

    1. Update the Conservation Plan with a statement that an Action Plan has been reviewed and approved. Cite the date of the plan.
    2. Send the landowner a letter stating that the plan has been reviewed and approved but the landowner is responsible for ensuring the Action Plan is implemented as approved. Approval of the Action Plan gives consent only for approved actions, any modifications or changes must receive pre-approval through submission of a Revised Action Plan.
    3. Keep a copy of the plan and approval letter on file with the Conservation Plan.
    4. Send an electronic copy to BWSR Easement Section in St Paul.
    5. If a draft Action Plan generates concerns, it is best to discuss these with the landowner and plan writer and request a revised version that address concerns so that it can be approved.
  6. Follow-Up
    Depending upon the magnitude of the management activity and time permitting it would be helpful for SWCD staff to visit the site during or just before the management action commences. This can help to answer any lingering questions and reduce the potential for easement violations. This is not required but is considered a BMP.



Bill Penning
Conservation Programs Consultant