How to Sell Timber From Your Land

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Most landowners sell timber from their land once or twice in a lifetime.  Its a big step and should not be taken lightly.  Of course, once a tree is cut down, you can’t put it back and 80 to 180 years of growth is wasted unless the timber sale is done right.

Keep in mind that timber sales should always be part of an on-going timber management strategy.  Very few landowners do this.  Most timber sales are conducted in a very cavalier manner, usually when land is being sold – the first thing you do is “liquidate” the timber then sell the dirt.  And then there are buyers who would like to recoup some of the cost of purchasing the land.  Or, they need money for something like a new truck or to pay taxes.

Ok, so let’s say you are a landowner who is thinking of selling timber as part of your long term management plan that you paid a consulting forester to prepare for you when you bought or inherited the land.  I know you did this because you are smart and wanted to establish a cost basis of your timber commodity for tax purposes and you want a road map for the management of the timber growth so you can maximize the return on your investment.

The first thing you do is call your friend’s cousin who is a logger, right?  Or you call the sawmill down the road – he’s real close so should pay the best, right?

Wrong.

First thing you do is take a walk through with a consulting forester or two or three (not 17 like one fellow I met years ago) and pick the one you feel the best about working with.  You can take a walk with a DCNR Service Forester as well and he can give you a list of consultants for you to choose from and make some recommendations on your timber sale.  Keep in mind you get what you pay for with a government guy.

You must then contract with the chosen Forester and discuss in detail your goals for the property.  This is important – make sure you are on the same page.  There are many ways to go about a timber sale depending on your long-term and short term strategies, the importance of wildlife and aesthetics, etc.

Your Forester will mark the timber according to your goals and create a stand table showing in great detail the timber species, sizes, quantity and quality of the trees to be sold.  Then, a prospectus is made up with a good map (lines and corners should be well-located on the ground) with the details of what is being sold.  The prospectus goes out to mills that are in the market for your products.  Hopefully, enough interest is generated that a sealed bid meeting will be conducted and the highest bidder will be revealed.  If nobody bids on the timber, or the expectations of your forester are not met, it may be necessary to negotiate directly with mills.

Your Forester will then coordinate with the mill forester to plan and execute the harvesting and to make sure the land is cared for.  This includes Erosion and Sedimentation Plans, Best Management Practices, restoration and retiring of trails and landings as well as other activities negotiated with the Buyer.  These could be extra food plot work, trail building, road building, creek crossings, etc.  Part of your Forster’s job is to keep you compliant with permits and planning so you don’t get in trouble with the authorities.

A couple examples of permitting problems:  I once had to get a bridge installed to truck logs over a creek.  It took a year to get the permit since the area the creek drained required a Major Stream Crossing Permit.  There was a PNDI hit for Bog Turtle.  So, now I had to run this thing by every government agency know to man – the township, the Conservation District, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  In the end, we had a beautiful bridge and got our timber across the stream after a year of applying for permits.  (No government agency representative ever showed up to check the job and nothing was done differently for having applied to all those agencies and paid, well I won’t tell you what it cost in engineering fees.)  The neighbors tried to shut this job down, but had no leg to stand on because everything was done according to the letter of the law.

I once had a logger doing some TSI work along SR220 and over Bald Eagle Creek as me to permit a stream crossing.  One day officials from 3 different government agencies came to raise hell.  My logger produced all required documents and E&S plan and showed them the nice ford we built over the stream to protect the creek and banks from harm.  They liked what they saw and left without incident.  Imagine what could have happened to that landowner without properly permitting the job?

Once the job is finished, landings and trails retired properly and you have your money in the bank, the Forester’s job is done, until next time you need some work done.  (See the Services section of this site.)

 

About the Author:

Wildlife habitat manager and consulting forester from Central PA. Studied environmental Agriculture specializing in wildlife management and Forestry. B.S. Agriculture, Masters degree in Forestry. 30 years experience in land investment, forestry and wildlife habitat improvement. Currently working as a Farm Bill Forester for Pheasants Forever on Game Commission and Golden Winged Warbler Initiative.

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