Take time out for timber, too

SUGARCREEK, Ohio – Farmers wouldn’t leave a field of corn to rot, letting weeds choke any sign of life.

So, why would they let their woods grow wild?

“It’s a crop, too,” said Tim Moss, Huron County farmer. “It’s just like a corn stand, but you don’t harvest the tree every year.”

Worth it. Some people own woodland as a place to hunt, or a place for wildlife to roam, or just so they have a nice view off their porch.

Regardless of why they own the land, they can make money, too.

If they aren’t managing it, they’re giving up their opportunity to make money, said Ohio State University natural resources specialist Dave Apsley.

“Having a source of income is just one of the many reasons to own timber land,” he said. “The good thing is, you can do both – make money and use it for recreation.”

Time to start. In the early 1900s, trees covered just 12 percent of Ohio. Now, the industry is thriving, with tree cover over 30 percent of Ohio, thanks to conservation plans and forest management.

With 7.6 million acres of tree cover in Ohio, many landowners across the state have a chance to cash in.

Many of them just don’t realize it.

Moss did in 1978, when he had his first select harvest.

He has a 256-acre cash grain and beef operation. But he also has 38 acres of woodland, including a 6-acre lot by the road.

People always stop to ask if they can build a house on the property, Moss said.

They don’t realize the value of those trees, he said.

Getting help. It’s been years since Moss last had a tree harvest, and he knew he was past due on another one. He also knew despite his best intentions, he’d neglected his woodland far too long.

So he hired a forester for advice.

He did the right thing, Apsley said.

Before landowners decide to harvest trees, they have to determine what they have to sell. And a forester can help, Apsley said.

Although a logger may have the best intentions, he ultimately wants the landowner’s best trees.

If the landowner lets the logger pick the trees to harvest, there may not be any quality trees left for another harvest.

Leaving weeds. Take a dairy farm as an example, Apsley said. If a farmer sold all his high-producing cows, he would be left with just cull cows. What would become of a farm with only low performers?, he asked.

The same is true in the forest.

If a logger takes all the prime trees, the landowner will be left with the equivalent of weeds. Obviously there’s no future left for that forest, Apsley said.

A forester looks at the woodlot and makes a decision on each tree.

If a tree is in its prime and actively growing in volume, it may increase its worth by 10 percent a year, Apsley said. Manage it for 10-20 more years and the quality and value will increase.

Selling vs. marketing. “Don’t just sell your timber,” Apsley said. “Market it.

“Your timber is worth whatever someone will pay for it.”

A forester can help by getting more buyers interested. He or she can advertise to a wider geographical area and is likely to get more people and more bids, Apsley said.

Even after paying a forester his or her commission, the landowner can make as much money or more than without the forester’s help, Apsley said. More importantly, the landowner will have quality trees left for another harvest.

Regardless of whether a forester is involved, Apsley said to get at least three bids on the timber. And the landowner doesn’t have to take the highest bid.

Sometimes it’s more important to go with a credible logging company even if the bid isn’t as high, he said.

Keep things nice. Ohio State natural resources specialist Gary Graham emphasizes the importance of following best management practices so the forest isn’t ruined when the loggers leave.

Forest soil is fragile and without good roads in and out of the forest, soil erosion can ruin the potential for future harvests, Graham said.

Use a Silvicultural Operation Management Plan, he said. It outlines how the logging company will use best management practices to minimize erosion.

“You can have a harvest and still have a nice-looking forest if you do your homework,” Apsley said. “Or you can have a harvest and have a real mess.”

(Reporter Kristy Hebert welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 23, or by e-mail at khebert@farmanddairy.com.)

Related links:

Ohio Forestry Association: www.ohioforest.org

Ohio Woodland Stewards: http://woodlandstewards.osu.edu

Protect yourself

A contract with the logging company is critical. It’s your only protection.

Make sure the contract identifies the trees being sold and outlines a payment schedule.

Include that the company cannot resell the contract and how long the logger has to harvest.

The purchaser should be liable for damage to fences, roads, utility lines and anything that may go into a neighbor’s yard.

Be sure the logging company has $500,000 to $1 million in liability and has proof of insurance, including worker’s compensation.

Source: Stanley Swierz, forester

Get the details

*      Dave Apsley

      OSU South Centers

      11884 Shyville Road

      Piketon, OH 45661



*      Ohio Forestry Association

      4080 South High St.

      Columbus, OH 43207



*      For more information, visit www.farmanddairy.com.


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