Woodland Stewardship Project Continues in Maryland

Most woodland parcels in Maryland are small, between 1 and 9 acres in size. But do these landowners know how to care for these woodlands, based on the landowner's goals for the property?

The Hughes Center extended funding to a project to increase woodland stewardship on Maryland’s small-acreage properties.

University of Maryland Extension (UME) Principle Agent Emeritus Jonathan Kays continues to work on this project, which saw some delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. During the pandemic, UME developed a diverse, multi-state partnership with extension organizations from Virginia and Pennsylvania, state forestry organizations, and the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay to create a new Woodland Health Practices Handbook. What started as a project focusing on one state has since become a working partnership called the Woods in Your Backyard Partnership, which has a host of other resources online.

During the last year, the hands-on content of the Handbook has been distilled into a quick-reference field guide on land care practices that can help green industry professionals and landowners implement practices to meet the goals for their woodland property. Most (85%) woodland parcels in Maryland are from 1 to 9 acres in size, a trend caused by continued parcelization of the landscape. Some landowners want to see their woodlands used for recreation purposes and others for wildlife, while others may not have any plan or know where to look for service providers.

The project objective is to develop quality resources and training for green industry professionals (landscapers, arborists, foresters, etc.) who want to expand their business model and learn how to implement Natural Area Management Services for small-acreage property owners. Landowners who wish to implement their own land care practices also benefit from all the resources.

Throughout the life of the Woods In Your Backyard Project, the principal investigators in concert with members of the Partnership have hosted numerous regional training webinars and in-person trainings on woodland practices using the developed print and digital resources, most available free of charge. The Woods in Your Backyard Partnership has tentative plans for a Natural Area Management Services webinar series in the fall of 2023.

Kays said in a recent update on the project that he is working with on efforts in Western and Central Maryland to implement sustainable timber harvests on university properties that can be used for extension programs to demonstrate forest management practices first-hand.

All three printed resources from the project are available for sale by title from Penn State University by searching Woods In Your Backyard: The most recent Woodland Health Practices Field Guide and is now available for sale for $7.50:

Woodland Health Practices Handbook Released

Are you a landscaper or arborist interested in expanding your suite of services to natural areas like small forests? Perhaps you manage land for an organization, work with volunteers, or are just a landowner interested in improving your property.

The Hughes Center has funded the creation of a Woodland Health Practices Handbook. Created by the Woods in Your Backyard Partnership, this handbook and an accompanying checklist focus on practices that landscapers and arborists can use that enhance natural areas, like invasive pest control, tree planting and forestry practices, trail development, wildlife habitat enhancement, and more. 

Most (85%) woodland parcels in Maryland are from 1 to 9 acres in size, a trend caused by continued parcelization of the landscape. The lack of conventional forestry assistance and a focus on amenity-based objectives requires a new approach to enhance forest health and encourage woodland stewardship.

“This project is important in many different ways for the state of Maryland. One of them is for the landowner who wants to be a good steward of their land, enhance their property, meet their objects of enjoying their property, and have wildlife,” said Agnes Kedmenecz, a principal investigator in the project. “The other important aspect of this project is for the green industry professionals. This enhances their repertoire of services they can offer to the landowner — business that they can perform in that offseason when maybe they’re looking for more work."

The handbook and specialized checklist tool help green industry professionals and others determine which enhancement practices are suitable for a given property/site. The handbook includes over 60 color photos and an overview of land management techniques. The checklist tool will help you develop land care plans based on the landowner’s objectives. 

The handbook and checklist are not just for green industry professionals. They can be used by landowners, master gardeners, master naturalists, and anyone interested in learning how to create sustainable outcomes for their property.

The Woods in Your Backyard partnership includes the University of Maryland Extension (UME), Penn State Extension, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, and Virginia Dept. of Forestry. This project was led by Principal Investigator Jonathan Kays (UME) in collaboration with Agnes Kedmenecz (UME), Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay Forests Program Director Craig Highfield, and Don VanHassent with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service.

This project was funded through the Ajax Eastman Fund for Forest Health in Maryland. This fund is named after late Hughes Center Board of Directors member Ajax Eastman, who had an abiding love of forests, was a conservationist and a leader of the nascent environmental movement in Maryland half a century ago. The Hughes Center maintains this fund to grant support to projects that further her values in protecting Maryland’s forests.

The purchase price for the Woodland Health Practices Handbook is $27 for the manual and shipping. For more information, visit

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