WINTERSVILLE, Ohio – Deep ruts in the ground, sediment washing into streams, damaged trees and destroyed wildlife habitats. It’s an ugly scenario, but many woodland owners are faced with those conditions after a poorly planned timber harvest.
Fortunately, it’s a problem that can be avoided with a little preparation.
Dave Apsley, Ohio State University Extension forestry specialist, said a timber harvest conducted with Best Management Practices will help protect natural resources, reduce soil loss from erosion and reduce the amount of sediment that gets into streams.
Management. Best management practices, or BMPs, deal with keeping water off trails and roads and getting it into soil where it’s needed. Some practices include things like sloping or crowning roads, water bars, culverts and broad-based dips.
“It’s all about managing water,” Apsley said.
Best management practices are important for several reasons, he added.
Landowners are responsible for erosion control after a logging operation. If sediment is washing into a nearby stream as a result of the timber harvest, the landowner is responsible for correcting the problem.
Also, the trees that aren’t harvested are just as important as the ones hauled away.
“The trees you leave behind after a harvest are your future forest,” Apsley said.
And BMPs help protect that future forest.
Woodland owners should discuss best management practices with their logger to ensure both sides know what’s expected.
“If you talk to a logger about BMPs and they don’t know what you’re talking about, talk to a different logger,” Apsley said.
Many woodland owners claim they purchased a forest for its wildlife habitat and a properly planned timber harvest will protect that habitat.
“If you do it right, you can do a harvest and improve wildlife habitat,” Apsley said.
Get a contract. In addition to protecting the forest, a well-planned harvest also protects woodland owners.
Apsley recommends creating a timber sale contract with the logger before the harvest begins. Contracts should include information like the method of payment, dollar amount, duration of contract, liability and financial responsibility and best management practices.
A contract is a woodland owner’s only protection during harvest and it’s important to cover all the bases, Apsley said.
One thing to remember when preparing for a timber harvest is to take your time. Rushed decisions tend to be poor decisions and a bad timber harvest isn’t something that’s easily corrected.
“Don’t just jump in,” Apsley said. “It may be one of the biggest financial decisions you make in your life.”
Although just 1 percent to 2 percent of woodland owners say they bought their forest in order to make money, 30 percent to 40 percent do a timber harvest at some point.
Make goals. Start with a list of goals for your harvest. Do you want to change the tree species mix? Develop a recreational area? Improve the overall health of your forest?
If you know what you want to do, you’ll have a clearer idea of how to go about the harvest, Apsley said.
Knowing what your timber is worth is another step toward a successful timber harvest. To determine value, get help from a professional forester. Service foresters, consulting foresters and industrial foresters can offer recommendations regarding a harvest.
The value of timber is often influenced by factors like species, volume, quality, timing, distance from the mill and logging conditions.
Advertising the sale and getting a minimum of three bids is another way to get the most from a timber harvest. Advertising to the right companies can be the difference between a successful sale and a failed attempt. Professional foresters can help get word to the right companies.
“You’ve got to know the quality, you’ve got to know who’s going to be bidding on it,” Apsley said.
And getting at least three bids increases the chance of a higher price.
“Have you ever been to an auction with just one bidder?” he asked.
Don’t be afraid to say ‘no.’ Set a minimum bid and stick to it. Markets can change and the value of your timber could be much different in a few years.
“Timber is worth whatever the highest bidder is willing to pay,” Apsley said.
Impact. But no matter how much money changes hands or what the woodland owner hopes to achieve, one element of timber harvests never changes – a harvest will impact a woodland for centuries.
And it’s up to woodland owners to decide if that impact will be positive or negative.
(Reporter Janelle Skrinjar welcomes feedback by phone at 800-837-3419, ext. 22, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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