Don’t be the butt log of your harvest

What would you say, if I were to tell you I would give you $25,000 dollars to select cut some veneer quality white oak 20 inches and greater DBH out of your woods.

If you are like the average person the mere mention of $25,000 dollars tends to grab your attention. The things you may ask next might be something like, what is a select cut? What does veneer quality mean? What is a white oak, and can somebody please tell me, what on earth a DBH is!

Although $25,000 dollars may seem like a lot of money, a lack of knowledge here could turn that large sum of money into red numbers very quickly.

Timber harvest jargon

In an ideal world we could take the time to research and learn all the specialized jargon associated with a timber harvest. This would give us the knowledge to communicate efficiently and effectively with the proposed timber buyer while avoiding the deer in headlights look when the logger starts throwing around terms like DBH, veneer quality, and select cut.

However, we do not live in a perfect world, and time has become one of our most precious commodities. So what can we do to insure ourselves we get the maximum dollar value of our harvest and prevent the ecological or financial disaster that can be created by a poorly managed logging operation? Would you consider performing our own appendectomy, or flying the plane on your next family vacation? Then why would you consider marking, marketing, and selling your own timber? There are some things that are best left to the professionals. So what can you do? It’s really quite simple, hire a qualified professional. So where can you turn for help?

Options

The good news is you have options moving forward. Service Foresters are employed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and several SWCD districts employ a SWCD Forestry Specialist in their respective count. These individuals are available to provide landowners with advice for the long term management of their woodlands; can provide management plans and recommendations on how to accomplish the plan’s objectives; and provide landowners with technical assistance and information on tree planting projects, invasive species control activities and more importantly in this case, timber marketing assistance.

Their services are free of charge. However, due to the amount of time required and erratic logging schedules, neither the Service Foresters nor SWCD Forestry Specialist can monitor the final timber sale.

Industry foresters are employed by one of the forest industries (e.g. logging company, paper mill, or sawmill) and are often responsible for procuring wood fiber for their employer. They may provide forestry services to landowners such as forest resource management recommendations, timber harvest planning, and tree planting advice.

I would caution relying solely on industry foresters simply because they are stakeholders who have a vested interest in the success of either a logging company, paper mill, sawmill, or other forest industry. I am not saying they are bad resources to take advantage of; however, I would still seek additional consultation to provide a checks and balance to your harvest.

Consulting foresters

The final type foresters available for assistance are referred to as consulting foresters. Consulting foresters are self-employed or work for a private consulting company, and they have no interest in a timber purchasing or procurement entity (e.g. logging company, paper mill, or sawmill). They provide many of the same assistance to landowner’s owners as service foresters except they do it for a fee.

While some consultants provide assistance with a wide variety of forestry activities, others are quite specialized. If they mark, sell, advertise, and managing the actual sale from start to finish they will charge a percentage. This is usually 10 percent of the gross sale, but may vary from consultant to consultant. Some people are reluctant to use a consulting forester to forgo the 10 percent fee and save themselves some money. I caution you this, you get what you pay for, and free is not always the best choice.

Fees

In my experience the 10 percent fee is often greatly augmented by the 20-30 percent increase market value brought by the consultant. So, if you pay 10 percent gross sale to the consultant, but their ability to market your timber brings 20-30 percent more at the sale, what are you out? Whichever route you choose to embark upon when planning your timber harvest, I advise you to proceed with caution. Get working references for whomever you choose to go with. If something sounds too good to be true it most likely is.

Signing contracts

I implore you please, please, please, do not sign a timber contract until you have gathered as much information that is available about your land and the value of the timber. If you are completely clueless about a timber contract, seek the help of an attorney. The fee they charge could save you an enormous headache and potently thousands of dollars in damages.

Take advantage of the free services provided by the state service forester or the SWCD forestry specialist. We are here to help, not only to get you the maximum value of the timber you are selling, but to ensure an ecologically responsible harvest that will provide a sustainable timber resource for generations to come.

(Travis Smith is the wildlife/forestry specialist for the Guernsey Soil and Water Conservation District. He can be reached at 740-432-5624 or tsmith@guernseycounty.org.)

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