The creation of a healthy woodland requires knowledge of forestry techniques, and the investment of time and money. There are resources to help you achieve a healthy forest, and make your vision for your woods a reality. Resource professionals can help you make informed decisions and implement projects. Cost-share programs and the Managed Forest Law program can provide some financial assistance to see the projects through.
Why Use the Services of a Professional Forester?
Foresters are invaluable resources to help you cost-effectively manage your woodlands. A good forester is trained in the art and science of forest management, and can help improve your forest to better fit your needs and the forest’s needs. Some people may think that any value in hiring a forester is offset in the fees they charge, but unless you are an expert in this area, a forester can save you money.
Perhaps the most compelling reason why many people hire a forester is that they can provide some assurance that the job, whether timber sales or management, will be done right. A forester is essential if you know little about timber management, marketing and sales and you have little time to learn. Research shows that a timber sale almost always generates more money when a forester assists. Beyond timber sales, a good forester will tailor recommended management practices to your stated goals. For example, if your goal is to produce firewood or maple syrup, they can help you manage your woods for highest production of these in a way that is sustainable.
Here are some general principles to keep in mind when you are choosing a forester to work with you.
The forester should…
· be willing to listen to your objectives;
· be available on a long-term basis;
· be someone who works for you and has your best interests in mind;
· have excellent references from past clients, including past landowners and timber buyers;
· have credentials such as licenses, certifications, professional membership (SAF or ACF), awards, etc.
In addition, if you are not using a DNR forester, you may want to ask about the private forester’s fee structure. Some foresters charge by the hour or acre while others charge by the percentage of sales. Ask the forester about their specialty, if any, such as tax law, real estate or appraisal. If you are concerned about how the forester will differ from your views on management topics, ask about the options available for particular management issues and which projects should be prioritized on your land. Finally, ask about the kind of insurance liability that the forester carries.
For more information, see the publication Hiring a Consultant Forester
How to Choose a Logger
If you are considering a timber harvest, choosing a logger, is perhaps one of the most important decisions. Make sure the logger you choose is a careful, skilled professional who is willing to work with you and your objectives. A common way to increase your chances for success is to work with a professional forester to select a professional logger through a competitive bidding process. Once bids have been collected, you can make an informed decision by asking a few questions:
· What kinds of training and education do you participate in?
Membership with organizations such as the Forest Industry Safety and Training Alliance (FISTA), Wisconsin Master Loggers, and the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association can help indicate the level of competence and training the logger has received.
· What experience do you have with different types of sales?
Be sure to ask whether the logger is skilled in the harvest system you require and familiar with the necessary equipment.
· Do you have references I can contact?
Check with references provided by the prospective operator. Call the landowner and visit the harvest site to accurately judge the quality of previous jobs.
· Do you have proof of insurance you can share with me?
Make sure the operator has sufficient insurance to cover themselves and their employees and any subcontractors. A good contract should protect you from liability, but you want to be sure that you are not responsible if subcontractors are injured.
Other Resource Professionals
You may face a variety of challenges when it comes to carrying out the projects necessary to achieve an overall vision for your land. There are professionals, with knowledge that covers a wide array of topics, available to assist you. If you are interested in managing for specific wildlife, you may want to consider adding a wildlife biologist to your team. Some foresters may have sufficient knowledge to get you where you want to go, and there are wildlife specific organizations that can help as well. Some challenges, such as invasive species, may call for a contractor with knowledge and tools to help you control unwanted populations. Tax implications of owning property or conducting a timber sale will warrant a tax professional with knowledge of woodland issues.
For more information, see How to Hire a Contractor for Land Management Activities
Managed Forest Law (MFL)
The Managed Forest Law is a state program that encourages the long-term sustainability of private woodlands through a tax incentive. In exchange for having and following a written forest management plan, landowners receive a reduced property tax rate on enrolled woodlands. On average, in WI, productive forest land is taxed at $34/acre. This same land, in MFL, is taxed at $2.14/acre for open land, and $10.68/acre for closed land along with a small tax on any income from a timber sale. (Open land is open to the public for limited recreational uses: hunting, fishing, hiking, sight-seeing, and cross-country skiing.) To be eligible to enter the program, you must enter a minimum of 10 acres of woodland, and work with a certified forester who will write a management plan. For more information on this program, check out the WI Dept. of Natural Resources website.
The Wisconsin Forest Landowner Grant Program (WFLGP) provides cost-share money for specific forest management activities. Activities include: tree planting & care, management plan writing, soil & water protection projects, and forest health & protection measures. Those that apply and receive the grant can get up to 50% of their costs reimbursed. To be eligible, landowners must own at least 10 acres of woodland. For more information and to learn how to apply, check out the WI DNR WFGLP website.
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is a federal program that provides financial and technical assistance through the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The focus is on conservation activities ranging from management planning to tree planting to trail establishment. Payments can be up to 75% of the cost of the activity. For more information and to learn how to apply, check out the NRCS website.
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