It is a question a lot of landowners have, and one I hope to help answer here.
For those who feel like they can run a timber sale on their property by themselves, I have some questions for you:
- What are the mills paying for oak? Maple? Aspen? Pine? Other species?
- What are your trees worth?
- What products can you get from your trees? Pulpwood sticks, sawlogs, or both?
- Which trees are the best ones to harvest to meet your needs?
- Can you put together a contract with a logger you may work with? Do you need a contract?
- How do you know that your logger isn’t ripping you off?
If you were working with a forester, they could answer these questions for you. Since they are working in the area on other timber sales, they know what different species are selling for. And they know the specifications (log lengths and diameters) that mills are requiring. With that knowledge, they can give you a good estimate of what your trees are worth.
Foresters have extensive training in measuring trees, estimating the volumes of wood in those trees, and measuring the total volume of wood in your forest. From this they can tell you how many sawlogs (and their mill quality) and pulpwood (smaller logs to be converted to paper products) are in your woods. Then, they can provide a plan for how many trees to harvest and how to use those harvests to also meet your goals.
Contracts may seem like too much of a hassle but are well worth the effort for the protections they provide. Foresters can develop a contract that protects you and the logger and spells out exactly what is going to happen with the harvest. This often includes how you are going to get paid for your trees. Foresters have a lot of experience negotiating conditions within the contract so that it fulfills your goals while still making it a viable investment for a logger. Additionally, the contract will spell out who is responsible if the logger or a member of their crew or subcontractors gets injured while working on your property.
A logger might approach you with a contract, but it will probably serve their needs better than it serves yours. And if you sell your trees without a contract, your logger can do as they please, as a handshake agreement is not binding for them. Your forester is the one who ensures they abide by the contract, both during the harvesting operation and when it is complete. Please note that most loggers are very ethical and want to do the best job possible as their reputation is on the line.
The cost of paying a forester to do this work tends to be what keeps landowners from contracting with a forester. That cost is easily outweighed by the benefits you gain from having the forester run the sale. In fact, research has shown that landowners who hire a forester to administer their timber sale make 23% more from the sale than if they didn’t use a forester.
So, the answer to my question at the beginning, “why do I need a forester for my timber sale?”
- more money in your pocket,
- less stress from running the timber sale alone, and
- peace of mind that the work is right for you and your forest.