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Did you know you have to have a permit to cut timber in Georgia?

By Jim Griffith
Registered Forester #1616

As a forester and frequenter of the woods, I am used to unexpected confrontations with all sorts of creatures. Once, I was in the woods taking inventory of a Flint River bottomland tract when my cruising partner came face to face with a bear. I thought I had seen it all. But that was before I had the experience of obtaining timber harvest permits in a metro Atlanta county.

Did you know you have to have a permit to cut timber in Georgia? Well in some counties anyway. In most counties it is a simple matter of going by the respective office, completing the request form, then collecting the permit and going to work.

You may live in a county that still operates with common sense in regard to managing timber and timberland. However, if you live in the metro Atlanta area or other metro areas of the state, you may find it challenging to cut your timber.

You may detect a bit of passion in this article that stems from a recent experience I had with cutting timber in Gwinnett County. I had to make four trips to the Gwinnett County Planning and Zoning office as well as the storm water management office. I made no less than 30 phone calls to county employees who had no clue as to what a timber harvest permit is or how to approve one. It took the effort of a local P&Z; board member and a manager four levels up contacting a manager two levels up before I could attain any satisfaction from the reviewer approving my application.

I had one second-level manager tell me a state law requires a silt fence be erected around the entire timber harvest area. He also told me there was “NO” appeal process. He was wrong on both accounts. I was told I was the first person he had ever heard complain about this. If that is the case, we are in a sad state of affairs in our country if private landowners give in to such tyranny so easily. I don’t believe this is the case. At least I pray it is not the case.

If you live in Fulton, Bibb or Cobb County, don’t think you are any better off. I had to go to a hearing in the Fulton County courthouse three times to get a simple timber harvest permit for a rural farm.

We have all been hearing that ‘West’ Coast restrictions were coming our way. Well, they are here. Without a forester who has experience negotiating the red tape a timber cut in a metro county requires, you may effectively lose your right to cut your trees. So now, to have a successful timber sale, you not only need to know the timber you have to sell and have a professional marketing your trees to get the best price, but you must also be politically savvy to obtain approval to cut your trees.

Jim Griffith is general manager of the GFB Timber and Real Estate Companies.
Georgia Neighbor – September 2005

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  1. Hi,

    What if I have half an acre and only about 75 trees?
    What if 7 of them are right up on the house?

    I am purchasing home that has about 20 trees located in the immediate front and back lawn. I want to cut the trees down and sell the timber. Is that possible?

    Thank you,


  2. When will the State of GA stop the harvesting of timber without a permit. I had timber cut on my place 3 years ago. there was a permit but it took a year after the harvest to get the logger to report the timber sales to the county. Had I not been persistent, timber tax would have never been paid on the harvest. I see timber cuts in this area on a regular basis that are done with no permit. I will guarantee you that no taxes are paid on these cuts There is a simple solution for this problem. Create a data base that has permits listed in it. Make that data base available to all the buyers like Georgia Pacific. make a regulation that requires the buyer to only buy timber that the logger has a valid permit for. I have spoke with someone at the GFC regarding this. Nothing has been done. I have come to the conclusion that the Timber Industry is allowed to do whatever they please because there is no enforcement.
    During the harvest on my land, there was never an inspection of what the logger was doing. He violated numerous regulations regarding timber harvesting . The state and counties are losing out on thousands and thousands of dollars in taxes.