5 Costly Mistakes by DIY Timber Management

Timber owners are generally more knowledgeable than your average bear in the woods or at least have real-life timber management experience from the school of hard knocks. They should be admired for surviving and having prospered without the help from anyone else. However, there are five costly mistakes that many do-it-yourself timber owners make.

1. Timber has a Flat-Line Growth Rate

Many do-it-yourselfers have no formal timber management plan and simply hope to cut their timber one day when they need money. However, there are many owners that consider their timber asset as a savings account and are expecting it to continually mature until they are ready. Too many such landowners have experienced the wrath of Mother Nature through high winds, tornadoes, beetle infestations, wild fire, and other such disasters that can play havoc with their savings account. Then there are the natural losses from mature timber left to itself, like natural mortality, lightening, etc., as well as the flat-lined growth rate of mature trees. At such point, mature trees not only stop growing upon maturity, but begin dying one at a time reducing the overall value of mature timber stands.

2. Smaller Trees Aren’t Always Younger or Better Trees

Some timber owners plan their timber management, but do so without the help of a registered forester. In my experience, the individuals that pursue due diligence in researching or who bring in the assistance of a forester manage to develop a very workable and profitable plan. There are also those that saw their grandfather cut the big mature trees and left the smaller trees to grow into a new forest to be enjoyed by the next generation, which is fine if the timber stand has not been high-graded over the years and the smaller trees left are actually younger and of such quality that they will continue to grow into larger and higher value trees (there must be enough of these smaller trees to generate a productive forest overall). In such a case as this, I have seen smaller 6″ diameter trees that were to be left for the new forest that were actually inferior trees and were 50 years old and mature themselves. These trees never grow into a new forest of large diameter valuable timber.

3. A Good Reputation in Timber is Very Important

Many landowners use the logger that has trucks parked down the road, to buy and log their timber, or they use the same person that logged the property when their parents owned the land years ago. They may not know anything about the logger personally, only that he has been doing this for a long time. All loggers do not come from the same stock. You wouldn’t use just anyone to build your new dream house, and the same is true with loggers. Their ability and reputation varies dramatically. In the timber industry today, most loggers are independent contractors that may not have relationships with mills like a timber buyer, and are not able to get the most money for the seller. The same is true for the timber buyer you select. Not all can pay the same price and some have a much better reputation than others, and reputation is important with an asset that you only get one chance to sell. There’s no going back once trees are cut. Pick the right timber buyer with the right logger for your timber management project.

4. Join a Watch List for Timber Prices

How many landowners keep up with timber prices? Have you ever tried to find current timber prices online or anywhere else for that matter? They are next to impossible to find, other than calling a timber buyer and asking if it’s a good time to sell. You just can’t know. And once you do find prices, is it really the best time for you to sale? I hear rumors in the community all the time about timber prices, but they are just that, rumors, and worth what you pay to get them, nothing. Good pricing you hear about is most likely prices you just missed, because you didn’t have a connection within the market. If this is the case, you should be on a watch list for timber prices. A reputable timber company you want to work with can add you to a watch list. You will want to be informed of price changes that positively affect the sale of your trees. Timber management plans are a dynamic recommendation that should be changed if prices dictate an early or later sale. They can also be changed to cut a sawtimber stand early while prices are up, while you wait on pulpwood prices to improve for that thinning you had originally planned. So, in other words, it’s vital to your management plan to join a price watch list.

5. Never Sale Timber Without a Timber Contract

The worst of these is the selling of timber without a timber deed, a tree sale agreement, or some form of written contract. Without a written contract, how can you enforce the agreement? A verbal agreement is legal, but not enforceable by law. Not only do you need the price in writing, but the terms of the agreement need to define the harvest, the term of the sale, and all the details thereof, including the buyers proof of insurance to protect you in case of some unforeseen injury while they are on your property.

These 5 Costly Mistakes in managing your timber can be avoided with the use of a reputable professional forester. A registered forester with a reputation for helping landowner’s develop and implement their management plan and keeping them on a timber price watch list is a valuable asset to any timber owner.

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  1. I have a farm in Gainesville and have been hit by two wind storms in the last 5 weeks. I have about 150-160 oaks on the ground from blow overs. About half of the wood has been cut and piled. Most trees are 15-18″ dbh. Can u find me a buyer? John Davis is my forrester and feels most is timber grade.

    1. Hey Don,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m going to consult our timber management team and they should have some advice for you within a day.

      I think we will be able to find someone for ya, but it may take some time. Most of the smaller buyers have disappeared in the last few years.