How do I go about arranging a harvest on my land?

Timber harvesting is a vital tool in renewing or enhancing and improving the vigor, diversity, and beauty of a forest while providing benefits to society. Although timber harvesting accounts for only a small portion of our working forests’ life cycles, how and when timber is harvested plays a major role in determining the character of the forest far into the future.

Consider this: A mature timber tree may take 80 to 120 years to grow, so knowing what and when to cut is critical. To avoid costly mistakes, the assistance of a natural resource professional trained in forest management is invaluable. Done properly, a timber harvest can improve wildlife habitat, protect water quality, allow for future harvests, and establish regeneration while also increasing your income. Without sound guidance, a single harvest can degrade your land and decrease its value for generations. Rather than stripping your forest of its best assets, a good timber harvest leaves your forest in a condition to continue to provide financial and natural benefits down the road.

Unless a landowner is very well versed in timber sales, the services of a professional forester with management expertise, market knowledge, experience with loggers, sale oversight and retirement capabilities are invaluable.

Here are seven suggested steps to a successful timber harvest:

  • Mark boundaries, both your land and the sale boundaries and identify the trees to be cut
  • Appraise the value
  • Locate roads, trails and landings
  • Solicit bid and select the winning bid
  • Prepare timber sale contract
  • Monitor the sale
  • Complete post-harvest administration and activities to properly retire the site.

And some valuable hints:

  • Learn the difference between Lump Sum versus Scaled Product sales; know the tax implications of each
  • Select a professional and careful logger/operator; check their training, experience, references and proof of insurance
  • Key elements of your contract should include liability and responsibility; type, terms and dates of sale; property and sale descriptions; terms of payment; utilization standards; notification and permit responsibility; bonding requirements; and end of sale requirements.
  • Know the permits you will need; as the landowner, you may be responsible for violations!

You’ll find excellent step-by-step information in the University of Wisconsin publication, Conducting a Successful Timber Sale, A primer for landowners.  You should also obtain a copy of Best Management Practices for Pennsylvania Forests which has sections on Forest Management Basics, Best Management Practices and Regulations Affecting Forest Management.