Timber sales require education, caution

If there’s one thing that most Farm and Dairy readers have learned in the past couple of years, it’s that when you deal with someone who is interested in the natural resources under your property, you need a long agreement that covers every imaginable scenario to protect your land and secure the future for you and your family.

First offer

If the first offer doesn’t suit you, you can hire a lawyer to look it over and even negotiate on your behalf, and the agreement will hopefully include everything from site selection to method of payment. So, what about the natural resources that are growing on top of your property? Would you accept a handful of cash for your minerals, with little or no guarantee that when the job is done all you have left is one big mess to clean up? Probably not.
Would you let someone come in and take your gas or oil out of the ground, and then invite bidders to come in to offer a price? Would you allow someone to build roads and cut trees with no mention of erosion control while they were there, or, worse yet, after they’ve gone?

Timber sales

Historically, one sure way to make a little extra profit from your property has always been to sell some timber. After all, it is a renewable resource and with good management a harvest could be conducted on the family farm about once each generation. Trees are like any other crop, in that there is a time when they are mature and ready to harvest. If left to grow too long, the quality of the trees starts to deteriorate.

Lessons learned

I’m not trying to imply that all timber cutters are bad people. What I am trying to do is help folks to learn a lesson. If you made sure that your gas lease contract included everything under the Sun, then shouldn’t you address the same types of concerns if you want to sell your timber?
When oil & gas land men started to lease ground a couple years ago, one of the first things that folks did was to join a landowner group in order to protect their interests. There have been forest landowner groups around for years, and they generally meet on a regular basis, sometimes in the woods. If you talked to a lawyer for advice on your lease, then you may want to contact a consulting forester to help you through your contract. Foresters will evaluate your timber stand, write a forest management plan for you, advise you as to which trees are ready for harvest, and even manage the timber sale for you.

Harvester

As with any deal, your situation, your farm, and your timber are all different than your neighbor’s. The main thing to remember is to get it all in writing so you can CYA – (cover your assets). And no matter which way you go about selling timber, you are the one who is ultimately responsible for any damages. The contract will move that responsibility to the harvester.
As always, if you have concerns or questions about any natural resource issue, a call to your local Soil & Water District is free and could save yourself a lot of frustration.

About the Author

Jim Mizik has been the district technician for the Noble Soil and Water Conservation District since 1999. He also raises beef cattle with his son, Jeremy, on his family farm. More Stories by Jim Mizik

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