Are all regions created equal? No. At least not when it comes to timber in Georgia. The selling price for your timber varies greatly depending on where your trees grow. For instance, Pine Pulpwood in the Piedmont region sells on average $14 per ton less than it does in the Southeastern part of the state.
Why such variation? Well, it’s kind of complicated. But to make it simple, we’ve broken down the strengths and weaknesses of each region.
This article compliments our timber prices page which you can visit by clicking here: Georgia Timber Prices.
Hardwoods do well in the north. Trees such as oak and poplar traditionally provide better quality wood in the northern part of Georgia as compared to the southern region. But better wood doesn’t necessarily translate to better production. In recent years, the removal rate of Hardwoods in the north has notably declined. Some of this may be due to a harvest rotations–hardwoods take between 50 and 80 years to reach maturity versus the 10 to 40 for pine–but the more significant factor is a decline in the demand from mills.
Mills in the north are scarce. Especially in the northwest region where only two or three sawmills are currently operating, prices for both hardwood and pine suffer. Fewer mills means less demand for wood, which translates to lower prices per ton. If anyone had an inkling to open a sawmill in the northern region of Georgia, they could seriously shake up the market and potentially make a killing.
Regarding pine, it’s important to note that the northern region of Georgia (often referred to as “the Piedmont”) is dominated by a specific species: Loblolly. Beloved for their adaptability and rugged determination to grow, loblolly pines are also relatively easy to manage and space within a timber track. When it comes to selling value, however, loblolly pines don’t fair as well as their southern counterparts–most notably Longleaf and Slash.
Loblollys are often valued slightly less than other species due to their penchant for twisting and tendency to hold on to limbs a little longer than desired. Basically, when you fell a tree and want to slice it into lumber, the straighter and less knot-ridden your log the better. Mills pay high dollar for perfectly straight, nearly knotless logs, which Loblolly fails to consistently produce.
This feature of Loblolly also explains the near nonexistence of what is referred to as “poles” in North Georgia. Poles (which come “large” or “short”), are the creme de la creme of timber products, and therefore go for the highest prices. Though occasionally the northern region produces such trees, it’s been the exception and not the rule to have a stand of poles in the north.
This is where the timber market seems more like the NYSE. Contrary to the north, sawmills litter the landscape across the southern “Coastal” plains. More mills means more demand, which translates to higher prices per ton of wood.
In general, trees are more valuable per ton in the south. While that principle is safe to apply across all tree species and timber products, it’s important to know why (other than the mere mill-factor).
As mentioned before, the southern region of Georgia tends to grow different species of pine. Two of those species, Longleaf Pine and Slash Pine, are highly favored due to their genetic advancements in recent decades. Limbs are smaller and fall off quicker; the poles grow tall and straight. Especially in the southeastern region, or “Lower Coastal” plain, Slash Pines dominate due to their ability to withstand wet climates and produce superb candidates for the “pole” product.
While hardwoods aren’t as prevalent in the southern regions as compared to the north, they benefit from the high demand from mills and therefore are sold at relatively higher prices compared to their northern cousins. Down south, Oak and Poplar can be found, but also other species such as Ash and Cherrybark.
The mid-region timber market of Georgia appropriately behaves like a blend between its northern and southern neighbors.
As far as prices go, Middle Georgia aligns more closely with the Southern Region than the North. But while the market is strong, it certainly isn’t as strong as the Lower Coastal plains.
Regarding pine species variety, you get everything in Middle Georgia. Loblolly, Slash, Virginia, Longleaf, and more. Hardwoods, similar to the Southern Region, might not grow as prolifically as in the Northern Region, but they are certainly valuable.
What should I do now?
Talk with a professional. Specifically, a forester. The information above could never replace the expertise that a Registered Forester brings into the discussion of your timberland. If you haven’t already, search for a forester in your area of the state who is familiar with the timber market.
Also, be sure to look for a forester that has an eye on the overall management plan for your land; while it’s nice to pick up a chunk of change after a harvest, the real monetary value of owning timberland comes from long-term management plans.
If you haven’t already, check out our Complete Guide to Selling Timber.
Until next time, keep growing.
Editor // Timber Update