Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Forest Stewardship Program

Forest Stewardship is defined as active management of forests and related resources to keep these lands in a productive and healthy condition for present and future generations, and to increase the economic, environmental and social benefits of these lands. Forest Stewards are those landowners who manage their forestlands on a long-term basis by following management objectives that are multiple resource based, economically viable, conservative of natural resources and socially, environmentally and ecologically responsible.

The Forest Stewardship Program addresses the improvement and maintenance of timber, wildlife, soil and water, recreation, aesthetics, as well as forage resources.


Private forest landowners with at least 20 acres of forest land and have a desire to manage their ownerships according to Stewardship principles can participate in the Forest Stewardship Program. Also, adjacent landowners, with similar management objectives, may combine their holdings to meet this acreage limitation.

History of the Forest Stewardship Program

Most new residents come from urban areas where they have not been exposed to forest management practices. As a result, misunderstandings often occur when they first encounter smoke from a controlled burn or witness a stand of timber being harvested. To an uninformed individual, these activities can be perceived as environmentally destructive even though they happen to be a part of a long range multiple resource plan. In response to complaints from such individuals, local governments have tended to restrict or regulate forest management activities, particularly in areas where there are more interfaces between forestlands and recently developed areas.

The USDA Forest Service determined additional efforts must be made to create a positive public image for private non-industrial landowners and resource professionals in order to reverse this trend. Otherwise, excessive government regulations could be created that may discourage PNIF landowners from retaining ownership of their properties or carrying out management activities that are beneficial to themselves and to the environment. For these efforts to be successful, educational programs that focus on inactive landowners, enrich the knowledge of resource specialists and provide information to the general public are an essential component of the Florida Forest Stewardship Program.

Private non-industrial forest (PNIF) landowners own almost half of the state's forestlands, and present the greatest opportunity for making improvements to the supply and condition of the state's forest resources. These landowners are motivated by various environmental, economic and intrinsic goals. Unfortunately, they also tend to have limited knowledge of the possible alternatives for managing their forestlands or where to obtain technical assistance to help them realize their objectives.

Private and public resource professionals are making a deliberate effort to contact this group of forest landowners to assess their personal objectives and generate interest in stewardship management.

  1. those who have performed little or no management on their forestlands
  2. those who have managed exclusively for one resource and wish to diversify their activities
  3. those who presently manage their properties according to the stewardship concept and deserve recognition for their efforts.

Goals and Objectives

The Florida Forest Stewardship Program is designed to encourage the state's private non-industrial forest landowners to practice stewardship. Specifically, the program objectives are as follows: 

  • Encourage non-industrial landowners to manage their properties according to the multiple-use concept.
  • Increase awareness among the general public of the important amenities that Florida's forestlands, particularly non-industrial private forestlands, provide to all citizens of the state.
  • Improve coordination among natural resource agencies and groups, both public and private, to better serve the state's landowners and achieve common goals.

Benefits to Landowners

Landowners will receive:

  • A meeting on their property with a team of resource professionals that will contribute to the development of the plan.
  • A customized management plan that is based on the landowner's objectives. The plan will include forest stand characteristics, property maps, management recommendations, and a five-year time line for future planning.
  • Documentation of active management on the property that may help reduce tax liability.
  • An opportunity for future public recognition as a certified "Forest Steward".
  • A quarterly Stewardship newsletter developed and distributed by the University of Florida, IFAS Cooperative Extension Service.
  • The peace of mind in knowing that their property is being managed in a sustainable manner.

Getting into the Program

Contact your local county forester office of the Florida Forest Service, and tell them that you would like to have a Forest Stewardship Plan written for your property. The forester will ask you to complete a Forest Stewardship Application and answer any additional questions that you may have about the program.

Once the application is completed and returned to the county forester, a meeting will be scheduled between you and the resource professionals who will develop your plan.

For ease of signing up in the Forest Stewardship Program, you may complete the stewardship application [ Adobe PDF Document ], print, and send to: Conservation Programs Manager, Florida Forest Service, 3125 Conner Blvd., Tallahassee, FL 32399-1650.

Plan Development and Preparation

It is the landowner's responsibility to select the primary natural resource professional who will develop the plan. This lead professional will then contact the other resource specialists and schedule the field meeting.

Landowners that own more than 160 acres of land are encouraged to choose a private consultant rather than an agency professional to prepare their management plan. The services of a private consultant can be advantageous in a long-term commitment to land management activities and the periodic need for on the ground services. Often times, state agency personnel are pulled away from management activities to address other matters and may not be available to assist the landowner when needed.

Stewardship Forest Certification

Certification is the award reserved for landowners that have consistently practiced good management on their land, and followed the recommendations within their Stewardship Plan. Some landowners that have been practicing good forest stewardship even before they received their written plan may be eligible immediately for certification, while other may take several years to complete their recommended practices and be awarded certification. Contact your local county forester to determine if you are ready for certification. The forester will complete a checklist, forward it to the Conservation Programs Manager, and will schedule an on-site inspection to view the landowner's accomplishments with a Stewardship Certification team. If the Stewardship Certification Team agrees that the landowner has shown good progress, he or she will be given a Stewardship sign to display on their property and will receive a laser-etched walnut plaque, stating their certification status, for display in their home.


Forest Stewardship Program on UF website