Posted by Jim Griffith
Registered Forester #1616
In the process of negotiating the purchase of a timberland tract for a client, we reached an agreement with the selling representative only to find out that before the corporate officer would consummate the deal, they wanted to cut a remaining small stand of timber that according to the sales contract was contrary to the agreement. It turns out the representative for the company did not realize there was a small portion of the property that had not been harvested.
Neither the company nor my client had counted on that timber value in negotiating the sale so it is not a big deal one way or the other, except had the representative done the deal and lost that value for the company. But the value of the timber is not the point here. My point is that to change the contract the company wanted to use a map drawn in an office as the timber boundary for the sale. To give them credit, the map was a freshly flown aerial of a clear cut pine stand next to a SMZ. The thinned pine area was relatively obvious and the remaining thinned pine area to be clear cut by the company was rather obvious, but the wording called for all pine and hardwood in that stand. It left the contract ambiguous regarding the timber sale area; especially when they refer to reserving all pine and hardwood trees within the pine plantation area.
I think it is obvious to all what the intent of the agreement is. However, the amount of explaining it took to get to the understanding, and the referral to reasonable SMZ buffers, leaves me with the uncomfortable feeling that something can still go wrong when it comes time for the company to cut this reserved timber. To correct the ambiguity as to the exact boundaries of the timber reserved by the company with the sale, the timber boundary between the pine plantation and the SMZ has to be marked; or the contract at the very least refer to pine trees only, since there are little or no pine in the streamside buffer.
Problems occur when we assume, especially when the ones making the assumptions are not at all familiar with the property. Clarifying all aspects of an agreement, even when the points seem relatively obvious, leads to fewer problems in the future and longevity of relationships. If you are not sure, then hire someone that can assure you, it will be worth the expense.