Considering timber harvest? Do your homework

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Each weekday morning, I travel the 18 miles to my office at the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. Most often, I use this quiet time to focus on the day’s agenda or plot my strategies for long-term projects and programs. However, efforts to plan my day have been interrupted over recent months by observations of increased truck traffic.

I have witnessed several logging trucks each morning carrying large loads of recently cut timber in the opposite direction. The obvious destination is a saw mill.

My thoughts always jump to the same questions: Did the logging operator implement best management practices (BMPs) during the harvest to control sediment? How informed was the landowner of the value of his/her trees? What steps did the landowner take to protect his/her property?

Timber cutting is one of a woodlot owner’s major management tools. A harvest is useful not only for generating income, but also for accomplishing other ownership objectives, such as improving the health and vigor of the forest, developing wildlife habitat, altering species composition, establishing planting areas, creating vistas and trails and developing certain types of recreational activities.

But not all timber cutting operations are created equal.

Protecting resources

I know this because it is the responsibility of Ohio’s soil and water conservation districts to address logging complaints and potential sediment loss due to timber harvests under the Ohio Agricultural and Silvicultural Pollution Abatement Law.

Silvicultural Nonpoint Source Pollution (NPS) can result if sediment enters the natural drainage system as a result of logging, tree planting, site preparation, or other activities required to grow or harvest forest products.

Know your responsibilities. Landowners and logging operators are both responsible. The Ohio Agricultural Pollution Abatement Rules and Standards provide the option for filing a Notice of Intent and a Timber Harvest Plant prior to the start of the operation with the local soil and water conservation district.

Landowners considering a timber harvest will find the information in the Timber Harvest Plan document valuable when planning the harvest. Failure to plan for and correctly implement silvicultural BMPs during forest operations will result in unacceptable NPS pollution and can result in regulatory action initiated against the landowner and logging operator in order to achieve pollution abatement.

Market your timber. Your forest land represents one of your most valuable assets. How it is managed, how and when trees are harvested and marketed can dramatically affect your income, the future value of the forest, and how well it provides other desired amenities.

Many times, a landowner will jump too quickly when approached by a prospective timber buyer. Take the time to find out what you have to sell and develop a method of marketing your timber. This will result in substantially more income and satisfaction for the woodlot owner.

Protect your property

Every timber sale, no matter how small, should have a written contract that details what the seller and the buyer have agreed upon.

The process of negotiating the contract provides an opportunity for the seller and the buyer to discuss how the harvesting operation will occur and to identify and obtain clarification and agreement on areas of concern.

This will substantially reduce the possibility of misunderstandings and disagreements and provide both the seller and the buyer with legal protection as agreed to by the terms and agreements of the contract.

Get help

Your local soil and water conservation district has much information to meet your land use needs.

The Jefferson district has prepared a comprehensive packet of resources that will be of interest to woodlot owners’ considering a timber harvest. Included in the packet are best management practices recommendations for a harvest, a marketing and bidding fact sheet, a sample contract, a list of private forestry consultants, the Ohio Master Loggers’ list and much more.

(Irene Moore is the district administrator for the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District. She grew up in Jefferson County and has worked for the district for 23 years. She can be reached at imoore@jeffersoncountyoh.com.)

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