Timber, like other investments, is a valuable asset. Not unlike your investments in the stock market or business, it requires expertise for property management. The lack of forestry knowledge, or your absence from the managed property, could result significant physical or economic losses that could take years to recover.
There are many aspects of timberland that are included under the heading of timber management. Timber management includes, but is not limited to management plans, timber sales, wildlife management, site prep and planting, investment analysis, prescribed burning, and the list goes on. The most basic timber management begins with an inventory/timber cruise of your timberland. There are four things you need to know about timber management.
1 – Know what you have
In order to create an attainable plan, one must know what they have to work with. A thorough examination of the property and timber can reveal a lot about what can be done with your timberland in its current condition. A timber cruise, or appraisal, which is an inventory of the trees and timber volumes on your property, is basic to all timber management. This inventory process not only gives you current values, it identifies the species within your timber asset, potential end-use product of the trees, the number of trees per acre and diameters of those trees, and it can also evaluate soil quality and growth rates of the current trees and potential new
The number of trees per acre, along with quality of those trees, age and diameters is most important in developing a plan for the management of your timber. Certain conditions of trees and forest stands are more suitable for one type of management than for others. Therefore it is of utmost importance to know what you have on your property to begin with, especially if you
are selling any trees, otherwise, how would you expect to know if you were getting a good price for your timber or not?
2 – Know what you want to have
Are you managing for timber production, or strictly for the economics of the operation; or wildlife, aesthetics; or some combination thereof? In order to manage properly, your manager needs to know what you want in the outcome. Managing for wildlife can be quite compatible with an economical timber management plan if that outcome is known upfront and planned for. Managing for aesthetics will require special planning up front if a timber harvest is included in the plan. What one wants to attain from their timberland is of most importance to the manager in order to plan accordingly.
For instance, one cannot generate a maximum income and leave all their timber undisturbed for environmental reasons. These two objectives are not compatible. However, timber harvesting can be planned in such a manner to create the least disturbance of the environment as possible. Streamside Management Zones can be left, buffers along roads can be undisturbed, coverts for wildlife can be established, select-cut operations can be conducted, natural reforestation methods can be part of the plan, and the options go on and on. Again, to meet the desires of a landowner for timber management, the preferred outcome must be known upfront. It is important to clearly communicate your desires for your property upfront to your manager. When the timber is all cut and gone, and you are looking at a disaster zone on your property, it is too late.
3 – Know what is involved
In order to obtain the desired outcome for your property it is important to know what is involved in obtaining your goals. When you explain to your manager what you want for your property, it is important to describe what you want the property to look like in the end. If you want a park-like environment or a quail-hunting reserve, you don’t need to be telling your manager you want to get the most money from your mature hardwood trees. You may want to get the most money for the trees you sell, but you cannot sell all your mature trees to max out your income and have a quail reserve or park-like property remain. The desired outcome may require some trees being removed and some trees staying. Which trees stay and which ones go is of the utmost importance and it must be related to a manager/logger cutting timber on your property.
Your desired outcome might require replanting after trees are cut. There is going to be a considerable cost involved in the reforestation of your harvested area. There are costs involved with every desired action. To get the most dollars from your timber asset, you may have to give up a big mature and majestic forest that you loved visiting and just riding through on a Saturday afternoon. Cost can be emotional as well as economical. You need to understand what your cost of management is going to be.
4 – Know who can help
If you are not experienced in timber management or having timber logged from your property, you may need the assistance of a registered forester that works for you. In the market, these foresters are known as consulting foresters. They are employed by you, the landowner, to help you reach your desired goals and advise the costs of obtaining such goals.
If your timber buyer has sufficient knowledge and has your best interest in mind, he might be able to assist you in preparing a plan for your timber management. However, it is important, to understand where your manager’s loyalties lie and who pays his salary. It can make a difference.
Ultimately, you have several options and there are foresters in the industry that can assist you in creating and executing a management plan for your timber land that meets your desired goals.