If you had an antique car, would you sell it to anyone who made a first offer? Or would you investigate and consult with an expert on the car’s value? Most people would. Consequently, it’s a never ending frustration when foresters hear about a landowner taking the first offer on their timber, and allowing the logger unfettered access to their property without a contract that protects the landowner, his or her trees, and land.
We get a number of phone calls concerning this situation each year.
You go to a doctor when you’re sick. You hire a lawyer for legal problems. Why not work with or at least consult a forester when you have forestland and are considering a timber sale?
Selling timber is not like selling other items. There are many, many factors that affect what a buyer is willing to pay. Species, terrain, difficulty with access, tree diameter and height are all important. However, what many people don’t consider is that a sawmill only three miles away may have a yard full of logs, while the sawmill 50 miles away may have an empty yard with a big order to fill. You can bet that the local mill won’t be willing to pay even the current average price, while the mill 50 miles away would pay well above average. The previously mentioned $10,000 could become $60,000 overnight.
Consequently it pays, literally, to advertise your timber to a number of buyers. Typically, you set a minimum price and let the buyers bid. However, what do they bid on?
They bid on individual species volume (of wood), total volume, average diameter and diameter distribution, volume per acre (species specific and total), ease of access, among others. While transport distance is a factor, it usually isn’t the most important factor or even the next most important factor.
As you can imagine, obtaining this information requires some specialized skill, education and training. It will pay, literally, to put yourself on equal footing with a timber buyer by working with someone who knows how to get this information from your woods, and has good knowledge of the timber markets.
Last but not least, you should consider what your goals and objective for your forestland are. They probably aren’t exclusively pure economic gain with no regard to the property or overall landscape. While finances may be the primary reason for selling timber, no inherent conflict exists between realizing income and incorporating good management practices.
There are ways to prevent or at least minimize the adverse effects often associated with logging. Again, this requires a highly specific skill set of silvicultural practice, knowledge of timber markets and timber sale contracts.
Contributed by Christopher Jones, Service Forester with the PA DCNR Bureau of Forestry
Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry foresters are available for assistance to private landowners free of charge. Interested landowners can call