Woodlot Management Guide of Alberta

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A woodlot is any track of land, regardless of shape or size that supports naturally occurring or planted trees Most woodlots in Alberta are family owned and are often operated as part of an agricultural operation These properties occupy over 3 6 million hectares (8 9 million acres) of forested land in Alberta’s agricultural zone, or 4 per cent of the province’s forested land base Individual woodlots vary in size from a few hectares to several hundred, but the average lies between 20 and 40 hectares.

The value of woodlots is often measured by their ability to produce consumer goods and services such as forest products and tourist experiences, or to stimulate local or regional economies by creating or diversifying business activity and employment. However, even though woodlots provide significant amounts of timber to the forest economy, these harvests are not managed on a sustainable basis. For many woodlot owners, a timber harvest is a one-time income source; many harvests on woodlots are liquidation cuts where sustainable forest management is not practiced.

Woodlots also produce other goods and services, which are difficult to measure but may be much more valuable than the easily quantifiable goods that are produced. For example, forests protect soil from wind and water erosion, contribute to cleansing, filtering and stabilizing wetlands and water bodies, and provide habitat for a wide range of wildlife and plant species. Woodlots contribute to clean air and provide a place to commune with nature.

Woodlots have played a significant role in agriculture and rural development in the last 100 years. Historically, forested private land was cleared for agriculture purposes or to supply wood to local communities and industries. Forests were liquidated and little thought was given to the sustainability of the forest harvest. Today, the level of liquidation harvest has declined, although the sustainability aspect has not changed. However, progress is being made. Extension programs directed at woodlot owners, industry and governments are raising awareness of the importance of managing woodlots sustainably. The wide range of timber and non-timber benefits that can be realized from a healthy managed woodlot are better understood, and in some cases actions are being implemented to maximize those benefits. Information is needed to help woodlot owners, and society in general, to better understand the values and potential benefits that private woodlot owners in Alberta can realize.

Objectives and Use of This Guide
Full Guide is available in pdf format above.

This woodlot management guide is an adaptation and updated version of The Woodlot Management Guide For The Prairie Provinces. This guide provides an introduction to basic woodlot management activities for landowners who have limited knowledge or experience with forestland management.

Most privately owned forestland is found in the general vicinity of populated areas or forest processing facilities, and are in areas with road access and other developed infrastructure. This means these privately owned forests potentially have a greater impact in their areas than do larger tracts of forested land. However, many landowners may not be aware of the value of the products, services and potential income that may be derived from their woodlot, and they may not be familiar with the management of small-scale forestry operations. As a result, woodlot owners may not be maximizing the potential benefits from their properties.

This guide is intended to provide basic knowledge of woodlot management so landowners can become better informed and make better management decisions. Information in this guide is designed to help landowners understand the resources on their woodlots and to encourage landowners to develop goals, objectives and a management plan for their land. This guide is not intended to be a one-stop information source. Landowners may want additional assistance or advice from forestry practitioners, including woodlot extension specialists, forestry consultants or local forest industry firms interested in working with private landowners. Additional information and assistance is also available from educational institutions and government agencies that have programs or expertise that may help the woodlot owner with forestland management. The Internet is an invaluable tool to access information from anywhere in the country or the world.

This manual is arranged into three main sections. Within each section a number of topics are discussed in varying levels of detail.

The first section is an introduction to forest resources. The ecology of the forest zones in Alberta, soil characteristics and the role of wetlands are presented. The section concludes with a description of common tree species found in the Alberta.

The second section discusses various aspects of forest management in the woodlot. The woodlot management plan is discussed, along with the woodlot inventory and pest management. Forestry activities, including silviculture and forestry operations are presented. Agroforestry and grazing are also included in this section because these activities can be an important component of a working woodlot that is integrated with an agriculture operation. Growing hybrid poplars is discussed to introduce the woodlot owner to current information on fast growing timber. The section concludes with information about the basics of business planning.

The final section covers the non-timber resources of the woodlot. The main topics of discussion are the wildlife and
recreation components of woodlots and how these valuable resources can be managed.


This revised version of the The Woodlot Management Guide For The Prairie Provinces reflects the knowledge, expertise and efforts of many individuals and organizations. The Guide has been updated to reflect current practices. Although some segments of the original were kept intact, the revision process and the resulting document have an Alberta focus. Future editions may be revised to include other provinces that participated in the original version. Numerous sources of information were accessed during the revision process and in some cases material was directly extracted for inclusion in this version of the guide. Usually, sources are acknowledged in the selected readings section, but no attempt was made to directly reference the sources within the text. In most cases, written or verbal permission has been received from the original authors or their organizations.

This update of the manual was funded by the Agriculture & Food Council - Canadian Adaptation & Rural Development (CARD) Fund.

We would like to thank to Nancy and Bruce Lyle from the Farm Woodlot Association of Saskatchewan, and the Association for providing a digital version of the Guide, along with permission to use the materials to update the Guide.

We would also like to thank Jean Paquet, and Daniel Fillion, of Syndicat des producteurs de bois du Saguenay - Lac-Saint-Jean and the Federation des producteurs de bois du Quebec for allowing us to use material from their Field Guide - Sound forestry practices for private woodlots in this guide.

We would like to thank the people listed below for their time and effort to revise the older version of the Guide. Your help is truly appreciated.

Editor and Coordinator
Joe De Franceschi, Consultant

Revision Coordinators
Victor Brunette, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Toso Bozic, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Doug Macaulay, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry

List of Contributors to the Revision (in alphabetical order)
Gary Bank, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration
Micheal Bock, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Martine Bolinger, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Kelli-Lynn Claypool, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Alan Eagle, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration
Janet Ficht, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Tom Goddard, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Derek Johnson, Natural Resources Canada
Chuck Kaiser, Alberta Pacific Forest Industries
Ordella Knopf, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
Christine Kominek, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Dave Morgan, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Dave Moyles, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Greg Pohl, Natural Resources Canada
Sunil Ranasinghe, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Mike Undershultz, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development
Candace Vanin, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Stacey Wabick, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Photos were provided by: Ducks Unlimited Canada, Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Alberta Sustainable Resource Development, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, Doug Macaulay and Toso Bozic. We greatly appreciate the help.

This guide is not meant to be read from cover to cover. It is a tool to provide landowners with information about how tomanage their woodlot and find solutions when challenges appear. Each topic concludes with a list of selected readings, Internet sites and/or contact information. This list provides additional resources to readers who want to explore the topic in greater detail, or discuss related issues with someone with more experience. Even though we have provided our best knowledge in updating this guide, we recommend that landowners also consult other sources to make decisions.
This guide will be available on Alberta Agriculture and Forestry's website and is available for anyone to use with proper acknowledgments.

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For more information about the content of this document, contact Toso Bozic.
This document is maintained by Brenda McLellan.
This information published to the web on October 27, 2015.
Last Reviewed/Revised on November 6, 2017.