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Preventing Problems in the Timber Logging Process

Posted by Jim Griffith
Registered Forester #1616

I am often the recipient of calls resonating panic regarding a timber logging process taking place on the caller’s property. They are seeing for the first time a logging operation on their own property, and that operation is not coinciding with their expectations.

Sometimes the caller is not sure if they should be concerned about the condition of their property or not. They simply don’t know and are calling for verification of the job being done. Other times the caller is totally upset and wanting to stop the operation all together. This caller takes a little more reassurance to become satisfied. And sometimes, the caller is totally justified in calling with their concern and the logger on site needs special attention to correct legitimate problems that should not have occurred.

There are numerous harvesting issues that should be discussed with the timber seller before the sale is consummated if one has never been involved on the selling side of a timber transaction. Actually, these issues should be discussed even if the seller has harvested timber many times. The purpose of the harvest should be very clear and the expectations of the results should be discussed in an effort to make sure all involved in the sale are on the same page. A recreational property conducting a select cut thinning harvest is going to look and be treated totally different than a clear cut sale; this should be explained to and understood by a novice selling timber.

The need for roads to access the timber and the location thereof, as well as, the location of staging areas for loading should be a topic of discussion. A staging area alongside a road is going to give a dramatically different impression than one back in the woods out of sight. The size of the staging area should be discussed and understood up front. Some loggers create an acre or more opening while others operate with half that open space. It may have to do with the size of the operation and number of loaders on the site, or it may just have to do with the efficiency and use of the space by one logger over another. And then the condition of the staging areas and access roads following the harvest completion should certainly be discussed.

Skid-trails and rutting should be among discussion topics. If rutting begins, what are the steps to deal with this action?

The difference in logging a hardwood site versus a pine site should be discussed. Hardwood sites almost always create more debris from larger tops and limbs that can be somewhat of an eye-sore for a longer period of time than pine might ever be from the beginning. Looking at a logger’s harvesting job of a pine thinning is not even comparable to what that same logger might do cutting a stand of hardwood. Therefore, in the discussion of expectations, it is important to be specific for the type harvest being done.

What about deer stands or other improvements on the property? Other improvements could include fences, fields, young planted pines, streams, ponds, barns, roads, etc. These issues should be discussed and understood how blatant or inadvertent damage or destruction will be handled and resolved.

There is always the potential problem with trash brought onto the property by the logger and company employees. It is good to determine upfront how trash will be maintained and removed from the property.

Many of a landowner and timber seller’s fears can be relieved with upfront discussion of what the logging operation should look like and how it will be conducted. Meeting the seller on the property in the beginning and during the operation will also allow them to vent or ask questions that could become problems if not discussed and worked through early in the sale. Unaddressed issues can grow and become problems when a simple discussion could either resolve or head off potential problems before they even begin. Your forester is your source of information and should be utilized to resolve all your concerns.

But understand, in a timber harvest, trees are going to be cut, limbs and tops will be broken and left on the property, and the ground will be disturbed in all operations. The property will no longer look like it has for the last years that you remember and the new look will take some time getting used to. However, I have found that the new look grows on landowners’ much quicker than you might think.

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