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.